How do you observe the most solemn day of the Church year with your kids? Here are a few suggestions, and links to more resources.
Fast (but give kids a special meal)
Most of us adults won’t be eating much on Good Friday—one full meal, two small meals (not to equal one full meal), and no snacks in between, plus no meat. (Adults who are sick or over age 65 are exempt…find out more at the USCCB Fasting & Abstinence page.) Kids age 14 and older are called to abstain from meat.
Jessica at Shower of Roses has wonderful suggestions for a simple Good Friday meal for children; she ties the different dishes to different elements of the Passion narrative.
In many places, it is traditional to eat Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday; Fish Eaters explains the tradition and provides a recipe.
If you do not attend Good Friday services with your kids, maintain an atmosphere of quiet prayerfulness between noon and three on Good Friday (known as the Three Hours’ Agony, since Jesus hung on the cross during that time). Children can be given religious books to read, or you can read the Passion as a family, or you can use this time to do the Stations of the Cross as a family (see below). If you have very young children, simply maintaining your own quiet attitude might be enough to make an impression.
Keep a Good Friday Timeline throughout the day
Help your kids keep track of the events of Jesus’ Passion throughout the day with a Good Friday Timeline. Basically, you draw or print out scenes of Jesus’ Passion, and post them as a timeline story on a wall, one scene at a time, throughout the day. Kids can check up on the progress of the story and be encouraged to pray in response to the different events—kind of like an extended, relaxed Stations of the Cross.
Do the Stations of the Cross as a family
If you haven’t done the Stations of the Cross as a family during Lent, now is your big chance. You’ll find multiple options at our article, The Stations of the Cross for Families, plus links to free downloads. You might also check out Make a Stations of the Cross Story Timeline with Your Kids.
Attend Good Friday services, and give your kids a preview of what to expect
Many families have difficulty getting to church on Good Friday, but if you are able to attend, give your kids a heads up about what to expect:
- No Liturgy of the Eucharist. Although you will probably receive the Eucharist, the consecrated hosts are those reserved from Holy Thursday. It is an ancient practice of the church to not celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist on Good Friday.
- A silent beginning. The service begins without music or singing; the atmosphere is one of sadness and grieving for the sins of humanity and the suffering and death of Christ.
- The prostration of the priest. Notice that the priest prostrates himself before the altar, a sign of the grieving of the Church and the abasement of man.
- Solemn intercessions. On Good Friday, the whole Church prays the Solemn Intercessions, an expanded form of the prayers of intercession signifying that Christ died for the whole world. (Can your kids remember which groups are mentioned specifically in the intentions?) You can check out the text of the Solemn Intercessions here, or listen to them chanted in this video.
- Veneration of the cross. During the veneration of the cross, the assembly is invited to approach the cross and offer some form of veneration—kneeling in prayer, kissing the wood of the cross, etc. We venerate the cross because this instrument of suffering and death was transformed by the blood of Christ into the means of our salvation.
- Stripping of the altar. The altar is stripped bare at the end of the service, and everyone leaves in reverent silence.
Ask your kids this stumper: Given the nature of the day, why do we call it “Good” Friday? Slate.com tracks down some possible answers.
More about Good Friday
If you or your kids are curious to learn more about Good Friday, check out these resources:
- Wikipedia has a thorough history of the day, an explanation of the liturgical customs, and observances around the world.
- Catholic Culture has a short article on Good Friday Activities in the Home, with special suggestions for younger kids.
- And if you really want to dig into the old customs and traditions of the day, head over to Fish Eaters, where you’ll also find an extensive recipe for Hot Cross Buns.