Celebrating Holy Week as a Family


Holy Week is a feast for the senses. It is important to mimic the rhythm of what is happening at church in the home. For example, the songs heard in church during this week can be played at home, and the practices that happen at church can be explained to children beforehand. Here are some ways to celebrate the high points of this sacred time.

Palm Sunday

Turn palms into works of art by creating palm crosses. There are lots of tutorials online. In some cultures around the world, Palm Sunday is a day to remember those who have passed away. Consider visiting the cemetery and tidying up loved ones’ graves, or place flowers on the graves as a remembrance.

Spy Wednesday

“Spy Wednesday” refers to the day Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Talk with children about all the ways that we can betray and hurt each other and God. Then talk about ways that we can make amends and love one another more deeply.

Many families dye eggs this week and often dye a “Judas egg” by dipping all the colors together so that they run, and the egg looks awful, reminding us of the great betrayal of Jesus by Judas.

Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday we hear various foods mentioned in the Scriptures, such as lamb and bread. Consider a special meal together as a family, eating something like gyros with pita bread.

To recall Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, take turns washing each other’s feet in your family. Arrange chairs in a circle, and place a basin of water and towels in the middle. Add fragrant oils to the water, such as frankincense and balsam. Dim the lights, light candles, and play some Gregorian chant. End the experience in silence.

Good Friday

Good Friday is heavy and somber in tone and should be observed with simplicity and solemnity. Consider observing total silence between the hours of noon and three o’clock in the afternoon or even for the remainder of the day. Forgo television or other screens this day. If not able to attend a service at the parish, reverence a crucifix at home as a family. Bake hot-cross buns together, or ready the dough for Holy Saturday morning, being mindful that we are called to fast on Good Friday.

Holy Saturday

The Easter Vigil is one of the most beautiful liturgies that we celebrate. This can be a lengthy liturgy, lasting two or three hours, so preparation is key. Talking about the liturgy ahead of time is important. Some families allow small children to attend the Easter Vigil in their pajamas, as they may fall asleep during the Mass. Other families bring “busy bags” with coloring books (Easter-themed) or storybooks. Some families skip this liturgy, because they are afraid that it is too long, but many parents have told me that the intricacy of the liturgy actually holds the attention of children in ways that we might not expect.

If you absolutely cannot attend the Easter Vigil, consider re-creating some of the elements at home, such as having a bonfire outside, renewing your baptismal promises, and passing the light from one family member to another, either with battery-powered candles or real candles if your children are old enough.

Easter Sunday

The tone of Easter Sunday is all about the joy of the Risen Lord and sharing that joy with others. As you think about your family, friends, or parish community, is there someone in need of a little extra joy? Someone who has lost a loved one? Or a person struggling with ill health, who could use a spark of joy? Consider spiritually adopting an Easter friend, and find ways to let that person know that you care—by making a meal, sending notes, or taking him or her out for coffee or lunch.

What are some of the best ideas, traditions, and practices you have to observe Holy Week?

About Julianne Stanz 80 Articles
Julianne Stanz is the Director of Outreach for Evangelization and Discipleship at Loyola Press and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. She served previously as Director of Discipleship and Leadership Development for the Diocese of Green Bay. Julianne infuses her talks, retreats, and seminars with humor, passion, and insights from her life in Ireland. A popular speaker, storyteller, and author, Julianne is married with three children and spends her time reading, writing, teaching, and collecting beach glass. She is the author of Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church, Developing Disciples of Christ, Braving the Thin Places, and co-author, with Joe Paprocki, of The Catechist’s Backpack.

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