We are still at the beginning of the school year and as teachers and catechists map out their year, we are all thinking about special feast days and liturgical seasons that we want to celebrate with our classes. Without a doubt, we all know what vacation days we have surrounding Christmas and Easter, and we are also planning how we can help our students experience those important feasts, as well as Advent and Lent.
But as Catholics, we are blessed with so many feast days and celebrations. To help students integrate the Faith into their lives, it is helpful to highlight some of the “forgotten” feasts and traditions of our Faith. Below are six to consider. (We were going to offer five, but since you may have already missed the first, consider it a bonus for next year.)
October 2 – Feast of the Guardian Angels
Each of us has a guardian angel. This is a truth defined dogmatically by the Catholic Church. But unfortunately, many people rarely if ever think about this heavenly guardian, chosen for us specifically by God. October 2 is the feast of the guardian angels. We should encourage our students to remember their guardian angels, and to rely on their help. One good way to do that is to celebrate the feast of the guardian angels. Do an activity that relates to angels, remember to pray the guardian angel prayer throughout the day, and consider taking your class to visit Jesus in the church in the Blessed Sacrament. Since your guardian angels will be joining you, that is a wonderful gift to give them on their feast day.
December 6 – St. Nicholas
This can be a tricky one, depending on the age of your class, and their traditions relating to Santa Claus. But it is important to remember that St. Nicholas is a real person. He was a fourth century bishop who suffered greatly for his faith. His love of children and practice of giving gifts to them to celebrate the birth of the Lord continues in his honor to this day. Often, some tact can allow a teacher or catechist to dodge uncomfortable questions about “Santa Claus” by teaching students about St. Nicholas and simply letting them know that he still provides gifts to children to celebrate Christmas. The class can participate in the tradition of leaving a shoe outside the door to be filled with an orange or a piece of candy or some other treat. There is no need to pretend that St. Nicholas himself is filling the shoes, only that we are celebrating his feast day with a long-standing tradition. You may consider showing the children a video about St. Nicholas, such as CCC’s “Nicholas, the Boy who Became Santa,” which can be found on Catholic Brain at:
January 23 – Day of Prayer for the Unborn
We live in a post-Roe America – Alleluia! But our struggle for the right to life and respect for the dignity of every human being, including the unborn, is nowhere near over. These are values that it is essential to teach our children. It should be part of the environment of every Catholic school and parish. The people should breathe it like the air. One way we can build a culture of life with our children is through prayer. On January 23, Catholics are asked to pray for the unborn. We continue to pray for their legal protection. Do not let this day pass without some special prayer or activity with your students honoring the dignity and beauty of unborn children and celebrating all human life as a precious gift from God.
February 2 – The Presentation of the Lord / Candlemas Day
This can hardly be considered a smaller feast, but it is often overlooked. February 2 is 40 days after Christmas, and the day Jesus is presented in the Temple. Traditionally, this date used to be the end of the Christmas season, and many people continue the tradition of keeping the nativity scene up in their homes until February 2. To remember this day, ideally, your class could go to Mass. At least read Luke 2:22-28 together and pray the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.
February 2 is also Candlemas Day, when candles are blessed for use throughout the year. This tradition dates to the Middle Ages and celebrates Christ, the Light of the World, coming to the Temple in Jerusalem. Candlelight processions are a beautiful and traditional way to celebrate. If possible, ask a priest to bless candles for your classroom or, even better, have families bring or send in candles from their homes to be blessed.
February 3 – St. Blase
The day after Candlemas, when all your candles have just been blessed, you get a chance to use them for a special blessing! February 3 is the feast day of St. Blase, who was a fourth century bishop. There is a story that a mother once rushed to St. Blase to help her son, who was choking to death on a fishbone. Blase prayed and blessed the child, and he was miraculously saved. On St. Blase’s feast day, we can receive a special blessing with candles, asking the saint to intercede for us and protect us from every disease of the throat. Two blessed candles are crossed and held over our throats as we pray for the blessing.
March 25 – The Annunciation
This is another very big feast day that is often overlooked. March 25 is exactly nine months before December 25, Christmas. On March 25, we celebrate the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary to announce God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus. This is the moment Jesus took on our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We should celebrate! This feast almost always falls during Lent and unless it is Holy Week, it is a day off from Lent (as is the feast of St. Joseph, on March 19). Let the students know that. Celebrate with a bit of a feast, read Luke 1:26-38, and pray the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Stressing that this moment is when God truly became human is another way to impart to students the humanity and dignity of unborn babies. Jesus Himself was an unborn child and took on our human nature in the womb of His mother.
Consider adding these (and other) lesser-known feasts to your classroom celebrations, and help your students celebrate our Faith all year long!