We use count-down chains on many occasions at my house – Christmas, birthdays, visits from grandma who lives three states away. It stops me from having to answer “How many more days until…” everyday, several times a day. My favorite count-down chain, however, is the one we do for Lent.
I cut 40 strips of purple construction paper. I divide them among my children. On one side of the strip, we write a Lenten practice. I encourage the children to do at least one of every type of Lenten practice – sacrifice, prayer and almsgiving. The children might write down no PS3 or Wii, no snacks, or no television as sacrifices. Prayers may include saying a sorrowful mystery for a special intention, for example, the first sorrowful mystery for those mommies contemplating abortion. Sometimes, the prayer chain link may ask for a visit to the chapel or a reading from the Bible. Almsgiving links suggest such activities as placing their own money in the poor box, going through their clothes to donate, buying can goods for the local soup kitchen or making Easter cards for the nursing home. I am not sure whether the practice of giving family members sincere compliments falls under prayer or almsgiving, but I always enjoy the day of that Lenten practice. Whatever the suggestion, the children themselves come up with the ideas and write them down. The older ones and I guide and write for the smaller children.
Then I staple the links together with the Lenten practices facing inward. Every morning during Lent, we remove a link, read it and perform the practice. Sometimes, especially for smaller children, giving something up for 40 days can become overwhelming. But anyone can give up TV for a day, though it is still a sacrifice. Moreover, this exercise teaches children not only the sacrificial aspect of Lent but also the need to pray and give more during this sacred time.
Furthermore, watching the chain become smaller and smaller adds to the excitement of the approaching holy day. Easter is the greatest day of the year. In keeping with the solemnity of the Lenten season, the count-down chain also allows us, as post-Good Friday Christians, to also anticipate the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
*Note: Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent. Thus, when doing the Lenten count-down chain, no link is torn off on Sundays. We, however, try to keep Sunday a simple faith and family-oriented day, as we always should.
Copyright 2013 Kelly Guest