All the Gospels in the New Testament devote several chapters to the last week of Jesus’ life.
After all, there was so much going on that final week when Jesus took the sins of the whole world on Himself and died for us.
Satan thought he won, but he lost! Jesus rose from the dead on the third day!
When Holy Week and Easter roll around, I want my children to learn about and celebrate everything!
Besides being real history, this week is foundational for our faith in Jesus.
So, let me give you a birds’ eye view of the last week of Jesus life and ways to celebrate with your family.
Dinner at Simon's House
Starting on Saturday, Jesus dined with Simon the Leper in Bethany. Bethany was where Lazarus, whom he had just raised from the dead, and his sisters Mary and Martha lived. Anyway, while Martha served, Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair. Jesus said that she had anointed Him for burial and commended her.
Family Fun: Give one another foot rubs
(Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-9)
Triumphal Arrival in Jerusalem
On Sunday, Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The people were so excited, they worshipped Him, as well as spreading cloaks and palm branches on the ground for Him to ride over.
Family Fun: Dress up and act out the Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem
(Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19)
In my family, we love to celebrate with food. At Valentine's Day, we enjoy setting a fancy table accented with pink and red hearts. We love planning festive menus for breakfast or lunch or dinner.
Here are some menu ideas if you would like to celebrate St. Valentine's Day with food.
Heart-Shaped Waffles with Strawberries & Whipped Cream
Heart-Shaped Chocolate Pancakes with Syrup
Bowl of Raspberries & Pears
Heart-Shaped Ham Sandwiches
Pink Milk (put a few drops of food coloring in your milk)
Cranberry Juice mixed with Club Soda
Heart-Shaped Tea Sandwiches
Scones with Raspberry Jam
I tried to make St. Valentine's Day special for our family while the children were growing up. We ate dinner together with the good china on a lace tablecloth. We celebrated love!
I loved exchanging little Valentine's Day cards when I was a little girl. As I grew into teenage years, I never seemed to have a sweetie when the day rolled around, so I felt lonely and depressed without a true love to celebrate with. When I became a Christian, I investigated to discover the true story of St. Valentine, a Christian pastor in Rome.
You can read "St. Valentine, The Real Story" here from CBN.
When I had my own family, I decided to celebrate love, the true love that comes from Jesus. That's the kind of love that St. Valentine had for his beloved flock. And after all, the day's named after him.
Because of the way our culture sees St. Valentine's Day, I wanted to reach out to singles, too. We have included many single guys and ladies in our festivities. Although messages from the world creep in, I have tried to make St. Valentine's Day a family celebration because we all need the perfect love that comes from the Lord. Reaching out to people has helped us to show God's love to others.
After a series of fights and misunderstandings, the hero and heroine realize they are desperately in love and kiss passionately. Birds start singing and the whole world is brighter.
Well, Hollywood's version of love.
Unfortunately, physical attraction, obsession, and passion don't cement two people together for long. Attraction is the icing on the cake, but there is a love that lasts a lifetime.
What is that love?
What does it look like?
Well, let me start by describing it.
Love that lasts starts with mutual respect and admiration. Two people can look up to one another without either one being intimidated or trying to "put the other in their place."
Not only do two people respect one another, but they want the best for one another, even if that doesn't include the relationship working out. Let me explain. When a man loves a woman, he wants her to walk in God's perfect will for her life, even he is not part of that equation. He cheers her on. A woman who loves a man does everything she can to inspire him and encourage him to grow in his giftings and strengths. Sometimes this requires making sacrifices.
When my oldest daughter got married, we were able to go into the church and reception venue the day before to decorate. Our decorations were elaborate and it took us hours to get everything ready for the next day.
For our most recent wedding, the ceremony and reception would all be at one venue with the ceremony in the rotunda (sun room) and reception in the ballroom. Immediately, this eliminated some of the major decorations. My oldest daughter had envisioned a dance floor that friends built for her, but this place already had a dance floor. In the first wedding, we had to set up tables and chairs, as well as put on the tablecloths. In our recent wedding, the venue set up the tables and chairs exactly as requested and the caterer would supply the table linens and set the tables.
It will be a breeze! I thought to myself.
Oh how naive I was!
We still had to set up the welcome table, the wedding favor table, the card/gift table, the photo booth, the arch for the ceremony, the cake table decorations, and all the centerpieces.
Not as much decorating, but still a lot of work! And we only had an hour to get it all done. Sigh.
I was so excited when the Lord gave me a plan to include the wedding party and family to help plan, make, set up, and tear down the decorations.
The plan helped things to run smoothly and let people serve where they enjoyed serving.
"If things don't go on schedule, we won't be able to get nice photos after the wedding," Jenny Rose sighed.
Oh, dear, I thought to myself. I don't know of any weddings that stay on schedule. My first daughter's wedding hadn't stayed on schedule.
But instead of sharing that with my daughter, I confidently replied, "It will. You'll see."
Over the next six months, my faith wavered, though I stormed Heaven with pleas for my daughter's desire for the wedding to stay on schedule.
I made a schedule that was workable but would depend on so many people. Oh, and did I mention that there were some time-challenged relatives?
In a practical way, I divided decoration set up so that several people worked together, more people than needed so the job would be completed quickly. I wrote up a detailed schedule and shared it with everyone in the wedding party, as well as those helping out. I let the caterer, wedding coordinator, photographer, and emcee know that it was really important to the bride to stay on schedule.
There. I had done everything I could do.
Three weeks before the wedding, I got a phone call from a dear friend who kept finding herself praying for our wedding. She wondered why the Lord kept putting the wedding on her heart to pray. I shared with Felice all the prayer needs for Jenny Rose's wedding and we prayed together.
Hanging up the phone, I realized that Jesus loves me and my daughter. Our desires matter to Him. He raised someone up to pray for us because He loves us. I felt weepy and happiness spread throughout my being. I am loved! I forget that sometimes, but it's true. Jesus loves me. And my daughter.
I kept praying for the wedding schedule among other wedding prayer needs and felt peace come over me.
Christmas is over. The children are enjoying their new toys. Is it time to celebrate the New Year already? It just goes so fast, doesn't it?
Celebrating the new year can often be an afterthought with me.
I am so focused on Christmas that when New Years comes along, I'm super-tired!
However, we have picked up some traditions along the way that I can share with you. (Please add your own Christmas traditions in a comment below).
We like to have friends over to celebrate New Years. We play games, sing karaoke, or just chat. Around 11:30, we start worship. Usually Rose leads worship with her guitar. Afterward, we have communion, using sparkling cider or sparkling grape juice.
When it's exactly midnight, we ring in the New Year with shouts, hugs, and kisses. Afterward, we usually pray for the new year ahead.
Here are some foods I serve to guests and family on New Years Eve:
Haystacks ( sometimes I use White Chocolate Chips)
Our Famous Curtis Cheese Ball we serve with Triscuits
Tortilla Chips with Bean Dip
Sometimes we light firecrackers or sparklers to bring in the new year after worship.
On New Years Day, we sleep in, really late for us! For my husband Mike and I, sleeping in means 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m., but on New Years Day, we might sleep 'til 9 or 10 o'clock.
New Years Day
Why do we love new beginnings?
Probably because we mess up so much.
We dream of being the perfect man, woman, husband, wife, parent, employer, employee, son, daughter.
And we stumble so often. We long for a new start, to get it right. If we just work hard enough, this time we'll get it.
Alas, our self-control goes only so far and at least some of our New Year's resolutions are cast aside or given up on.
Every year, I celebrate the start of a new year with hope and expectation. This year is no exception. I am bubbling over with hope, expecting a great year. Not because I have enough self-control to get it right. Nope. I'm celebrating because the source of hope in my life is Jesus! All my failures of last year, an hour ago, five minutes ago--they are all washed away. Every time I confess my sins, I am forgiven and He does a deep work in my soul. His work in me changes me from the inside out. His Spirit is so much stronger than my self-control. And I am confident. Not in my abilities, but in His ability to conform me to the image of His Son.
In the meantime, as He continues His work in me, I am rejoicing!
I rejoice because He loves me! I rejoice because when He looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Christ! I rejoice because He promises good to me, not harm, a hope and a future.
What a wonderful joy fills my heart when I realize that if I blow it, and I might, I am still loved, still righteous in His sight, and still a recipient of all His promises. He will forgive me. He will continue His work in me.
I live in a win-win situation.
So I will bring in the New Year with joy! I will celebrate another year to serve Him, to enjoy His love.
The girls in our homeschool co-op homemaking class made wreaths in December.
We kept it pretty simple by purchasing artificial pine wire wreaths to decorate. I love the wire because it's so easy to hang up.
All kinds of decorations were available to the girls in the homemaking class. We had artificial gold and red poinsettias, ribbon, red bows, gold bows, pine cones, bells, and tiny ornaments.
We used glue guns to attach the decor onto the wreath. We were careful with the glue guns, going over safety before we started. We kept them on paper plates when not in use and even kept a bowl of ice water on the table in case of burns.
The girls had a blast making Christmas wreaths. Each one was unique and beautiful.
Over the years, my children and I have made many wreaths at Christmas time. Some we have given as Christmas gifts and others still hang on our wall.
A Christmas wreath says, "Welcome!" to all visitors and adds a festive touch to any home.
Making and hanging wreaths is a special part of our Christmas. It is a tradition we enjoy!
"Happy Birthday, dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to You," the children sang enthusiastically. We had played Pin-the-Tail on Mary's Donkey and taken turns trying to break the pinata with a stick.
We have had birthday parties for Jesus as long as I can remember.
When the children were little we invited a few of their friends over and then went to town decorating the house with red and green streamers. We ordered a birthday cake from Sam's and used red and green plates and napkins. We always hung a pinata from the big tree in the front yard and made sure we had a blindfold for everyone who wanted to take a turn whacking it. After playing party games with Christmasy names, we sang happy birthday to Jesus and blew out the candles together.
Now candles were a big deal. There's no way to put 2,000 or so candles on a cake, but we did fit on as many as we could. After all, Jesus IS the Light of the World.
As my children grew up, we started having a Christmas party for Jesus at church each year. We continued the tradition of the games, but exchanged the pinata for ornament making. After all, it's hard to hang a pinata inside a church.
The Christmas Story
They are kind of cheesy and we can predict the endings, so why do we love Hallmark Christmas movies so much?
While each movie is different, there are common themes that we enjoy.
Each movie takes place in a small town where the people are friendly and kind, caring for one another. Most people even have good manners. The small towns are enchanting and make you wish you could live there.
Good people have strong morals and loving hearts. Bad people can change and often do as a result of loving relationships or a wake-up call.
Family members genuinely love one another sacrificially, or will before the end of the movie.
The hero is a genuinely good guy who cares deeply for the heroine and is trustworthy. There is a romantic sparkle that is endearing. The couple want the best for one another. Most of the romances are pure with a passionate kiss as far as it gets.
Christmas is seen as magical and highly worth celebrating. The "spirit of Christmas" is viewed as intangible and valuable.
A Hallmark Christmas movie is satisfying. It gives us the change to relax and escape from the pressures of life, to be lost in the story.
So why do all these things mean so much to us?
Well, it's because without realizing it, we are created to crave these things, well actually very similar things. Let me explain.
Our Real Desires
Every magazine's December issue has a gingerbread house that looks beautiful and delicious. Little candies are transformed into roof shingles, trees, windows, doors, and sidewalks on snow of frosting. My heart always thrills at the sight of these photographs.
"How hard can it be?" I used to wonder.
After years of gingerbread housing with very young children who have no idea how inept I am at this, I can safely answer my own question: "Very hard!"
It all started back in the early 2000s when my friend Laura would go Christmas shopping at the last possible minute. It totally stressed me out to think about it, especially since I had all my shopping done by Thanksgiving. Laura loved it, stuffing cash into her pockets and socks. Her kiddos stayed with me and I decided to do something fun that my children and her children would love.
A gingerbread house!
So, I bought a simple kit from the nearest department store and we made our first gingerbread house.
That first year I learned the following:
The following gingerbread houses were not made by me. I'm too embarrassed to show you mine.
Brown-eyed Susans, sugar cookie rolls, and butter cookies with cherries in the middle were favorites I made with my mother. We rolled out dough and cut out different shapes, sprinkling them with sugar. My grandmother's specialties were snickerdoodles, haystacks, and lace cookies.
I loved those cookie baking days with Mom and Grandma. I can still remember the wonderful smells and the delightful conversation. The memories are so precious to me.
Of course, I have carried on the traditions of baking cookies with my own children.
We have our own favorites: snowballs, gingerbread men, toffee bars, pecan tassies, and molasses cookies. Of course, we still make my mom and grandmom's cookies too.
Like in days of old, we roll out the dough and cut out all kinds of shapes. And as I pull out Mom's old cookie cutters, there is always a stray tear or two.
We love to make cookies and package them to give as gifts, but our first batch of Christmas cookies is always made the day we decorate the Christmas tree.
Here are some things I've learned to make cookie baking fun and festive:
Now, where did the tradition of baking cookies at Christmas come from?
When Did the Christmas Cookie Tradition Start?
"How did you know?" I asked my Aunt Mimi as I unwrapped Malibu Barbie. We were celebrating my birthday and she had come all the way from Orlando, Florida to see me. Everyone in the room smiled. They all knew I loved Barbies.
Then came my favorite foods for dinner: fried chicken, macaroni-n-cheese, and fresh green beans. Best of all, there was an ice cream cake for dessert.
As I crawled into bed that night, I couldn't stop smiling. It had been a perfect birthday. My parents, my sister, my friends, and my family had made me feel special and loved. The day had been all about me!
I love birthdays, especially recreating for others the magical days my mother and father created for me growing up. I enjoy fixing favorite dishes, buying special gifts, and planning special moments that are exactly what the birthday boy or girl wants.
So, as we approach Christmas again this year, I want to keep in mind that Christmas is a birthday. Not just any birthday; Christmas is a King's birthday.
In the Netherlands, King's Day, celebrated on King Willem-Alexander's birthday, is a national holiday. Most stores close down and people celebrate. There are parties, parades, concerts, and all kinds of festivities. The king and his family join the people in their celebrating. Since the king is a member of the House of Orange, everyone wears orange and waves orange flags. Some people even wear orange wigs.
In the United Kingdom, the Queen's Official Birthday is celebrated the second Saturday in June. Until 1936, it was celebrated on the reigning king or queen's official birthday, but when George V died, it was decided to make the official celebration the second Saturday in June. Her majesty's birthday is celebrated with a parade, gun salutes, and a host of festivities. Queen Elizabeth walks around outside of the palace greeting well-wishes. She and her entire family also appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and the Royal Air Force flies overhead.
In the Netherlands and England, the people want their monarch to know they are loved, admired, appreciated, and celebrated. It's a lovely time to be had by all.
With that in mind, let's celebrate Christmas as a birthday! Here are some ways to keep the birthday person JESUS in mind as we plan celebrations that He enjoys and show him adoration and honor.
In Denmark, they have a tradition of holding hands and dancing around the Christmas tree while they sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.
What are carols?
Well, the English word "carol" comes from the Greek word "choros" translated "dancing in a circle" and the French word "carole" translated "a song to accompany dancing."
Christmas carols are songs about Jesus and the time of his birth. Sometimes they are sung while dancing or walking.
In England, carolers would go from house to house singing carols to neighbors and friends. Some carolers sang on the street corners.
In the Curtis house, we have a tradition of caroling each December some time the week before Christmas. We carol through our neighborhood, singing one or two songs at each house. Sometimes we carol alone and sometimes friends join us. It is a special time each year.
Afterward, we come home and eat cookies and drink hot chocolate. Occasionally, we invite neighbors to come back and join us.
Would you like to try caroling in your house?
Tips to Make Caroling Easy & Fun