We follow Lent to follow Him
A time of sacrifice and prayer
We give up something we desire
That His example we might share.
-Excerpt from a Lenten poem by Elena dal Friuli
My family has been on our Waldorf journey now for three years this coming Spring. Since then, we’ve added a new member to the family and started homeschooling our eldest. At times it saddens me that I did not have a guiding philosophy in mind for my eldest’s early years, but thankfully now we do (and she doesn’t seem to know the difference). This means that our family traditions are not really traditions yet at this point. They’re new and evolving as we incorporate various festivals into our yearly rhythm. One new tradition, going on its second year in our home, is having a spring Lenten garden.
Last March after I went outside to cut some of my wild daffodils to bring inside, I sat down and read a bit of All Year Round by Lifeways. (This book has become an indispensable resource for me as a Waldorf homeschooling teacher and I highly recommend it.) At any rate, its section on Spring had a bit on Lenten Gardens. I had never heard of this before and I was intrigued! What a special way to teach children about Lent — a topic that for most young ones is hard to grasp.
My husband and I are Christians and both celebrated Lent growing up. Typically, at least for me, we gave up a luxury for the 40 days of Lent. While this practice should have held some significance for me, it did not. It wasn’t until this past year while doing the Lenten Garden with my daughter and son, that I really reflected on what Lent’s true significance was for me personally as a Christian.
The beauty of the Lenten garden is that it can be used in anyone’s home, regardless of what they believe. Just to reflect on the coming of Spring and the many blessings we have daily that seem to slip by without us knowing would be a welcome tradition in many homes. The possibilities are endless. I treasured being able to stop and pause with my children and it is a practice I feel I could never do too much.
Below are the practical ways in which we used our garden and how we made it. It can be tinkered with endlessly to suit your family’s beliefs and climate. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the time to pause and reflect on the unfolding of Spring with your families. In the hard dark days that come from time to time while raising young ones, those still moments serve as a beacons of light.
A tray or platter
Two large rocks and a handful of medium ones
A small bowl or container lid filled with water (to be a little pond)
Purple playsilk or cloth
Fresh flowers in a vase
A sheep figure
Various spring animal figures to decorate your garden scene
All the supplies I used for our garden last year I found around my house. I found an old wicker serving tray that I never use and I went to work. After laying down a terry cloth towel and plastic wrap to protect the bottom of the tray, I layered on the dirt, moss, rocks, water tray, and stones. Once they were all set in place, I added some Spring figures that we had on hand from our woodland fantasies farm set and a wooden mushroom I painted. Then I hung a purple mini playsilk behind the tray and added the freshly cut flowers from my yard.
Each day the children and I gathered near the garden after breakfast and moved the lamb slowly towards the two stones on the far side representing the tomb. On Shrove Tuesday, the first day that we did the garden, each of the children chose a toy to give up for Lent and set it near the garden. We recited our Lent verse daily when we moved the lamb and read the story of Easter by Patricia Pingry. On Good Friday we hung a cross and black silk in the garden and then on Easter morning I rolled away the two little stones to reveal an angel. The look on their faces when they saw the angel there was priceless and this tradition sealed its permanence in our family after my daughter emphatically shouted, “He really is risen!”
The garden was a great tool in talking about all the themes of Easter, Lent, and Spring. It continues to amaze me that in the process of teaching my children, I have learned, and re-learned, so much about life and my faith. I hope in the years to come that this ‘new’ tradition for us becomes a fond childhood memory for my children and yours.
Nicole Justice-Kleemann is a stay at home mother to her three young children as well as a slew of poultry and rabbits (who also fervently believe they are her children). After graduating with her Masters degree in Teaching, she has decided to homeschool her children in the Waldorf tradition. Her journey to Waldorf and her family’s daily adventures can be found at her blog.