A Lenten tradition
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the tradition of Lenten pretzels.
Preparation and materials
You will need a small amount of bread dough or an image of dough, available at: http://tinyurl.com/z4exkpa
Have available the following images of Lenten pretzels and the means to display them during the assembly:
- a pretzel, available at: http://tinyurl.com/gunxjw3
- a pretzel and a girl with her arms across her chest in prayer, available at: http://tinyurl.com/jaxgdbm
Optional: you may wish to give each child a pretzel as they leave the assembly, but please follow the food allergy policy for your school.
Ask the children to raise their hands if they enjoy playing with play dough.
Ask them to describe the best models they have ever made out of play dough.
Point out that, although play dough is a fairly modern invention, dough has been around for a very long time.
Show the bread dough or the image of it.
Ask the children what they think they would need to make some dough. (Answers may include flour, water and yeast.)
Listen to a range of responses.
Explain that bread has been a staple part of our diet for thousands of years. It was something that people made and ate every day, and it filled them up.
Tell the following story.
This is a story about a monk who lived a long, long time ago, about 1,400 years ago, in fact. Monks are men who have decided to devote their lives to God. They live with other monks in a special place called a monastery. They love God with all their hearts and spend their days praying, worshipping God and reading the Bible. The monks we’re going to talk about grew their own fruit and vegetables and made their own food. Their diet would seem very plain compared to the food available to us today.
Ask the children for ideas about the kind of food the monks would have eaten. Explain that, as well as their own fruit and vegetables from the garden, the monks would have honey from beehives.
One day, the young monk was in the kitchen, watching his brothers making special bread for Lent. For Christians, Lent is a preparation time, a very special time of 40 days before Easter. During these 40 days, Christians set aside time to think about what Jesus gave up for us at Easter. To help the monks reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice, they did not eat certain foods for 40 days. That’s why this special bread was being made. Today, many Christians decide to give up a particular food or activity for the 40 days of Lent to help them remember Jesus.
The young monk noticed that there was a small amount of dough left over, so he decided to make something special with it. He rolled the dough into a long strip like a sausage and then he twisted it like this.
Demonstrate with real dough or the image of a pretzel.
The monk thought that this shape looked a bit like the way children were sometimes taught to pray.
Demonstrate crossing your arms across your chest and show the image of a pretzel and a girl with her arms across her chest in prayer.
The monks decided that these bread shapes would be a nice treat for the children they taught. They could be used to encourage the children to say their prayers. This bread shape became very popular with the children and was a great incentive to learn their prayers. Soon, this shape of bread was known all over the world as a pretzel. We can buy pretzels today in our local supermarkets, but it all began in the monastery kitchen with a young monk!
Time for reflection
In school, we have many incentives to learn.
Mention the incentives that you use in your school.
The monks thought that it was very important for the children to learn to pray.
Why do you think the pretzel was a helpful incentive?
You may wish to suggest that the children fold their arms across their chests as you pray, like in the image of a pretzel and a girl with her arms across her chest in prayer.
Thank you that we can speak to you in prayer.
Thank you that you hear our prayers.
May this simple pretzel shape help us to remember to prepare our hearts for Easter.
Optional: give each child a pretzel on the way out of the assembly. Suggest that before they eat them, they pray for someone special.