Since September marks the beginning of the new Ecclesiastical Year, or cycle of the Church calendar, here's an activity to gear up our youth for another year - the catch is that this time we're going to try and make the 12 Great Feasts memorable. Together you'll be creating a giant calendar and the kids or teens will have the chance to fill it with all sorts of things.
Get started with 12 poster boards and assign small groups /or individuals to work on a month, depending on how many kids you're working with. Ask them to be creative and decorate around the month uniquely. Next, tape these up on the wall, and as the leader, use a highlighter to color-in the days of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church for 2008-09, but leave them unlabelled and call them *BONUS* days.
* September 8: The Nativity of the Theotokos
* September 14: The Exaltation of the Cross
* November 21: The Entrance Into the Temple of the Theotokos
* December 25: The Nativity of Christ
* January 6: The Feast of Epiphany
* February 2: The Presentation of Christ
* March 25: The Annunciation
* April 19: Great & Holy Pascha
* May 28: The Ascension of Christ
* June 7: Holy Pentecost
* August 6: The Transfiguration of Christ
* August 15: The Dormition of the Theotokos
Then begin month by month to ask the group all together for meaningful events to add. When a person suggests something, have them post it to the calendar. Be sure to include everyone's birthday (preferably Nameday's too!) school breaks, secular holidays, etc.
Lastly, introduce your *BONUS* bag, which hopefully will include 12 small paper icons of the 12 Great Feasts inside. Ask for volunteers to draw from the bag, and as a group, try to figure out where on the calendar the Feast goes. Be sure to ask THEM for a short explanation of the feast, and maybe a tip for remembering where it falls in the year.
It's tough, but there are a few tricks to help and always rely on logic! From Christmas, count back 9 full months of Panagia's pregnancy for the Annunciation. Pentecost, coming from the Greek word for 50 happens that many days after Pascha...and Christ has to Ascend first (hint hint) How about the Presentations of both Panagia and Christ - ask the kids if they can figure out how old they may have been from the icons.
To wrap things up - ask the following:
* What do you notice about our calendar?
* Does anything coincide or fall on the same date?
* How about fasting periods with exams at school?
Have fun, and at the end, maybe your group's Secretary can copy the calendar to distribute to everyone, or as gifts, your parish could purchase the Orthodox Planner from www.orthodoxmarketplace.com. For more info on the Great Feasts, visit http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8713.asp I like these books on the Feasts: "Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology" by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos and "Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus and the Virgin Mary Vol. 1 and 2"