In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time of repentance and reflection, preparing our hearts for Easter, life, and renewal. Nature too follows this course as the barrenness of winter leads to spring, bringing birth and growth. I love to help my children understand the changes that take place during this season in visual ways. Much like an Advent calendar, this Lenten path has a stepping stone for each day in Lent, from Ash Wednesday through Easter. The Sundays in Lent have been excluded because Sundays are always feast days, but you can add or subtract from this calendar as desired, perhaps writing some Lenten activities to explore on certain days, or marking important dates, like the days of Holy Week. This is a lovely project to work on as a family.
Large piece of watercolor paper– I used a half sheet of Arches cold-pressed paper, available at art supply stores
Watercolors, brush, and water
With a pencil, lightly trace circles for each day you would like to represent in Lent; I excluded Sundays, so have 40 days, but you may want to include those days, in which case you will need 47 days. Be sure that you are happy with your layout before proceeding to paint. I made my days meander to represent a path, but you can lay out your calendar however you wish.
When you are happy with the layout, paint each circle/stepping stone. To do this, use a wet-in-wet watercolor technique: with clear water, wet the area of your circle/stone. Now load your brush with color, and touch the color into the wet paper. It will spread naturally and create an interesting effect. Have fun with this and try adding a couple of colors together to create even more variation.
Once all of your stones are painted, fill in the background. I used nature as my inspiration here and started at the bottom of my stones, the beginning of Lent, and tried to represent the dead earth, the barren trees and brown ground. Moving up the page toward the end of Lent and Easter, the grass and plants get progressively more fertile and alive, bursting into bloom at the culmination on Easter Sunday. Have fun with this and decorate as you desire!
Once your painting is dry, punch two holes on the top at both sides and attach the dowel, leaving enough ribbon in the middle to hang the painting. Hang and enjoy as you journey through Lent.
Here are some additional ideas for Lenten customs you may wish to add to your calendar:
Create a nature table to represent the infertility of the season. On Palm Sunday, plant wheatgrass seeds in the dry soil, and be sure to water daily. You will be able to observe daily growth, and have a full bowl of bright green grass by Easter.
Baking pretzels is traditional to remember fasting, as there are few ingredients other than flour and water. Here is a recipe from Full Homely Divinity or use your own; these are simple and fun for kids to make.
Dissolve 1 cake of yeast in 1½ cups of water.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Blend in 4 cups of flour
Knead the dough until smooth. Cut into small pieces. Roll into ropes and twist into desired shape. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush pretzel with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake immediately at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
To encourage almsgiving, you may wish to give your children opportunities to earn money through extra chores which they can donate to charity.
Bley Hack is a wife, mother of three, and artist in Ohio who celebrates the seasons and creates nostalgic paper goods for her company, Bibliosophy Handmade.