The Lenten Tree- crafting your way out of cabin fever

After several months of teasing with freezing rain, slush, and an occasional flurry, winter finally arrived in a grand style this past weekend. Now that Christmas is over and spring planting seems so far away (or at least buried under about 2 ft of snow), I turned my attention to a few late winter projects. While I normally don’t blatantly write about my own spiritual life in my posts, I thought my latest idea was fairly versatile and could be of use to anyone who’s looking to share the idea of spring growth with their families (especially with little kids!) Whether or not you observe the season of Lent, I think that my recent arts-n-crafts extravaganza would be a great way to share something as a family during a meal.

When I was growing up, I always saw the months between Christmas and Easter as a really boring, dark time. Frankly, the excitement of Christmas was over, and suddenly we were thrown into several weeks (which seemed to drag on forever…) of giving up chocolate, or jelly beans, or something that seemed absolutely impossible to live without by the third day into Lent. My mom, being the ever-creative teacher tried to redirect our family’s annual 40-day journey into one of growth rather than just repentance. I remember her doing a caterpillar-to-butterfly project with her first grade CCD class every year, and that idea sparked the craft below. I’m eager to test it out in the Kelly house this year, and I will give a full report of how it fared. Brian was pretty intrigued as I was cutting out little foam leaves during Downton Abbey last night, so I think at least 2/3 of the family is on board.

Disclaimer: I’m sure this idea exists somewhere else on the Internet, but all the ideas below came from my own brain, for better or for worse. If you are interested in making one and have difficulty finding supplies or the time to do it, let me know and I can try and help out.

Without further ado, I present to you our family’s first Lenten tree! I was wracking my brain last spring trying to think of ways to explain Lent and the countdown to Easter to a toddler. Advent seems much better suited for little kids, especially when you’ve got candles and a wreath just sitting there on your table each night. I decided to create a tree centerpiece for our dining room for Lent this year where we can add leaves and flowers each day as we get closer to Easter. It helps that with 40 days plus Sundays, the tree will look pretty full by the end.

The Lenten tree, fully-loaded

The Lenten tree, fully-loaded

For the tree itself, I found a yarn-wrapped wire tree at Target last year on clearance after Easter. Just about every craft store sells these throughout the year (especially in spring with Valentine’s Day and Easter). I liked this one because the yarn-wrapped branches will be easier for little hands wanting to help.  Even if you can’t find one, you could probably break off a (very) small branch from your yard. For the leaves, I bought two sheets of green craft foam and cut out little football shapes; I used a pushpin to poke a hole in each leaf so they could be skewered on the branches. For the flowers, I considered cutting out flower shapes from foam (ha!) but instead found bags of pre-cut pastel foam flower stickers from the Dollar Store. (Seriously, I did a little dance for joy when I spotted them). I peeled the backing off two flowers, stuck them together, and bam– instant reusable flowers. As far as numbers go, I cut out 40 leaves, and I have 6 purple flowers, and 1 pink flower. We’ll use leaves for weekdays and the purple flowers for Sundays. For Easter, I plan on switching out the purple flowers for either white or multi-colored ones.

What I am hoping for is that at dinner every night, we’ll add one more leaf to the initially bare tree and share/pray briefly about growth in our lives. With a toddler, I see it more of a visual practice now, but I hope that we can continue doing this as Alexander gets older and he can have a more active part.

While I know that this project might seem a little early for Easter or even a little too involved for a busy schedule, I was able to construct the whole shebang in fewer than 50 minutes. No matter what your beliefs might be, I hope that my slapdash craft idea might inspire you and your family to talk about ways you can grow stronger as individuals and closer as a family.



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