Children love holidays. There is something about the preparations, the excitement, the food and very often the presence of extended family and friends that make holidays special. Yet in many churches and Christian homes, children never learn much about the holidays in the Old Testament. These holidays can hold so much history and meaning in them for Christian children today. Introducing them to your kids can add another rich layer to their faith development.
At first glance, teaching your children about the holidays in the Old Testament can appear intimidating. If you have not been exposed to Judaism, many of the terms and concepts may not be familiar to you. A quick search will reveal the way they are celebrated today, but often that has changed quite a bit from the original celebration and even intent of the holiday. In spite of these obstacles, you can begin introducing your children to these special celebrations without a lot of stress.
The best thing about the holidays in the Old Testament is that they celebrate something about God’s character and/or His blessings. Almost all of them either directly or indirectly point to Jesus. In a way, the holidays are what tie the promise of the Old Testament to its fulfillment in the New Testament. Remembering that is often the key to teaching them to your children.
Passover is probably the easiest and the most likely to be taught. There is a strong connection between the blood on the doorpost saving the children of Israel from the fate met by the Egyptians and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross saving our souls. You can find lamb in most grocery stores, which is the original meat served for Passover. Most stores also sell matzo crackers or the traditional unleavened bread or you can find recipes online which are simple and probably a little more authentic. (Note: The modern Passover actually combines more than one feast in the Old Testament into one holiday called Passover.) Read the stories of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt and how God used the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea to deliver them. Then fast forward to Jesus and the stories of the Last Supper, the crucifixion and resurrection. Help your children notice the connections between the original Passover in Egypt, the Last Supper and our communion feast on Sunday.
Yes, the above celebration is a simplified version of what is normally done for Passover, but if you are beginning, it helps to keep the celebrations simple and meaningful. On our Teach One Reach One website (teachonereachone.org), we hope to have detailed lesson and activity plans soon to help you celebrate all of the holidays in more elaborate ways for those of you who enjoy holidays and celebrations.
Purim, the Festival of Booths and Sabbath also lend themselves to relatively easy, fun celebrations of God, His promises and their fulfillment. Try to celebrate them close to when they are on the current Jewish calendar. It may make it easier for you to find some of the food items, although there are many recipes online which are simple to re-create.
Have fun with it, but remember the real purpose of these holidays. Yes, there was the fun, food and fellowship one associates with holidays, but there was so much more. All of these holidays were a reminder to the people of God and how vital He is to our lives. As you celebrate, take the time to glorify God and especially how you see Him still actively involved in the world and in the lives of your family. Ultimately, those are the most important holiday memories you can give your children.