While young children do not have a clear sense of time and sequence, teaching them about the Church’s liturgical year need not be difficult. Unlike the secular calendar, with its numbers and month names, the liturgical calendar is read by color. Add symbols children recognize, and their natural sense for seasons and celebrations will do the rest! This will help children link their every day lives with that of the Church year, making life much richer.
You can introduce the calendar any time of the year, but this explanation is written for when a new year is about to begin (the first Sunday of Advent).
To create a large calendar that can be used from year to year:
- Large foam board (approximately 3 by 4 feet), available in office supplies stores, in white or a light neutral color
- Pencil or marker
- Felt: green, white, red, and purple. If possible, have two shades of purple: a blue-purple and red-purple.
- Smaller felt pieces of various colors
- Fabric scissor
- Draw a large circle in the center of the foam board, covering most of the board.
- Using the pattern, draw the divisions in the circle to correspond with the seasons of the church year. Put Advent at the top of the circle.
- Cut the appropriate colors of felt to the size of the sections on the calendar: blue-purple for Advent, green for both sections of Ordinary Time, red-purple for Lent, white for both Christmas and Easter, and red for Pentecost.
- Glue them onto the circle.
- With smaller felt pieces, create symbols for each season that children may recognize. These can be simple outlines, or elaborate with details. Include some symbols that are not directly liturgical but will help children identify seasons, such as a pumpkin.
- Advent: stars, four candles
- Christmas: a baby, angels, sheep, Christmas tree
- Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent: heart for Valentines Day, mask for Mardi Gras, snowflakes if appropriate for your region
- Lent: a cross, hands in prayer
- Easter: lily, Risen Christ (a smiling figure dressed in white), an empty tomb
- Pentecost: dove, flame
- Ordinary Time between Pentecost and Advent: sun (for summer) or flowers, Mary (feast of the Assumption), pumpkin, turkey, a crown for Christ the King
If you cannot make a liturgical calendar, religious supply stores may offer them. Often these are beautiful, very detailed with text, and specific for a certain year.
Introducing children to the liturgical calendar:
Show children the calendar. To help them understand why it is circular, speak briefly of the natural seasons, making a circle with your hand as you explain: spring comes, followed by summer which is followed by autumn and winter, and then spring comes again. Then point to the Advent section of the calendar, saying that Advent is the time you are now entering. Briefly explain the other sections, coming around to Advent once again. Then discuss the symbols and have children put the symbols into the correct sections.
Display the calendar all year, with the symbols placed only on the section of the current season. This helps children remember what liturgical season they are experiencing. Refer to it and change the symbols whenever a season changes.
You can enhance this awareness by covering a prayer table, a bulletin board, etc. in the colors of the appropriate seasons. If you have a snack time, use napkins or paper plates in liturgical colors. Drawing paper or paint at the easel could also be in the colors.
At home, children can help make the symbols, and take turns changing symbols for the seasons. Keep a regular calendar handy so the child “in charge” knows when a feast, such as Pentecost, is approaching, and a change is coming on the liturgical calendar.