When Cosmo was still fairly small I heard someone say that a Jews catechism is his calendar. My ears pricked up, because I was starting to think about ways to introduce the gospel to him. Sure I sang songs to him and we had a children's bible we read from, but I knew that I wanted to teach him the bigger picture in a way that he would understand.
The Jewish calendar of festivals is great for this. If you haven't tried it, I thoroughly recommend you do. It can seem a little heavy at first (particularly if you already celebrate Easter, Christmas, thanksgiving etc...), so maybe try introducing one new festival a year and build up the traditions slowly. If you are going to do that, I recommend starting with the feast of tabernacles, or Sukkoth as it is sometimes known.
So many people jump in with passover because it sounds familiar to us as christians, and it should be. It's mirrored so perfectly in the Easter story, but this can be pretty heavy for small children. Sukkoth, on the other hand, is enjoyable for children of all ages.
We start buy building a tent or shelter (the Sukkah) which we are supposed to live in for 8 days. Now, I'm going to cheat a little (because I'm no longer bound by the law and I can!) so we built our 'sukkah' out of sheets in the spare bedroom. We tented pretty much the entire room and covered the floor with a mattress and pillows to make it cosy.
This temporary shelter is to remind us that we are only temporarily here. Jesus has returned to His Father's house to prepare a place for us. Our permanent residence is not here.
Next, we decorate the Sukkah. It's fun to put up bunting or any other autumnal decorations you have, kids can draw pictures etc... We incorporated pictures of some specific tree branches in ours. Traditionally the Jews would have processed with these four branches to collect water for the tabernacle. Here is the symbolism:
Water - Jesus is our living water. It was on the seventh day of sukkoth that he announced this in John 7:37-38
Myrtle, Willow, Palm and Citrus - one has no fragrance no fruit, one fragrance but no fruit, one fruit but no fragrance and one both fruit and fragrance. The Jews would say that the fruit represents knowledge of the Torah and the fragrance represents acting out the Torah. If your kids are slightly older you can parallel these with the four types of soil found in one of the kingdom parables (Matt 13).
We made our tree branches scented by putting orange oil on the citrus branch and jasmine oil on the myrtle (I have no idea what myrtle smells like, and luckily neither does Cosmo!). Cosmo loves sniffing them all to double check that they have 'fragrance'.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="720" caption="Preparing our Sukkah for our first evening meal."][/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="720" caption="Cosmo explaining the four branches over breakfast"][/caption]