Three years ago, I recommitted to celebrating our family's Name Days and Baptism Anniversaries. This year, our local Catholic homeschool community committed to celebrating at least one saint day a month together. This past week, those two commitments converged and what resulted was a fun, faith-filled party!
I had planned for our group John the Baptist party to proceed, in order, with:
- an opening prayer
- a picture book and chat about St. John the Baptist
- a hands-on Baptism learning tray
- water balloon fun
- free play
However, hungry bellies demanded flexibility in the flow of the day. Since the Saint Day celebration began right after an outdoor rocketry class that had gone a bit long, it made sense to kick off with food first.
John the Baptist Fare
We opened the celebration with a chat about John the Baptist using food as a teaching tool. Basically, all the children gathered around a picnic table on which our party fare was laid out and, after praying the Sign of the Cross, I wondered aloud what connection some of our snacks might have to John the Baptist. Based on the children's responses and some Q&A led by me, we were able to highlight some of John the Baptist's life story.
Among the John the Baptist-related fare were:
St. John's Honey and Fruit of the Spirit
John the Baptist is said to have eaten wild honey and locusts in the wilderness, so I brought raw local honey to put in a bowl and some fruits for dipping in it. I asked others to contribute fruit, too. With these as a focal point, we chatted about how John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and how, when he began to teach and baptize people, others thought that, perhaps, he was the Messiah. However, John said, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit..." (John 3:16) We, then, talked a bit about modern baptism,
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Iced Honey-Lavendar-Lemon Tea
Nina helped me prepare a simple honey-lavender-lemon tea by boiling water, squeezing lemons, and then adding the juice of the lemons, some raw, local honey and lavendar to the tea, before refrigerating and icing it. The honey reminded us of John the Baptist's diet and the sweetness of faith; the lemon reminded us of the sourness of sin made sweet by accepting faith, repenting and practicing Reconciliation; and the sweet fragrance of lavender reminded us of the sweetness of Jesus coming to be with us on earth.
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring our lovely glass pitcher and some pretty paper cups, so the tea would look lovely for serving. Luckily, it was just as refreshing served from my friend's plastic pitcher into recycled baby food jars!
Jesus Being Baptized in the Jordan River Juice Wigglers
I wanted to lay the Jesus figurine we have from our Galilee Boat with Apostles Play Set into the river, but I could not find it. So I used one of the apostle figurines as Jesus instead and, then, stood the Noah figurine from our Noah's Ark Play Set next to him as John the Baptist. This should have been easy, but - oops! - when I went to lay "Jesus" in what I thought was a cooled and half-gelled "Jordan" river, I took the dish of wigglers out of our fridge too quickly only to discover the Jordan was still in total liquid flow form. Thus, a wave of it landed all over my fridge and floor. What a mess! Thankfully, there was still plenty left to gel to act as a focal point for telling what is perhaps the most popular Bible story related to John the Baptist.
Once the children filled bowls or plates with snacks, they were invited to come sit on some blankets in the shade with me where we prayed grace, read about John the Baptist and took turns using a Baptism Tray.
I had brought both The Loyola Treasury of Saints and Jesus and John the Baptist with me to the party to share with the children. However, given the young age of some of the children who came to the celebrate, I opted to read only Jesus and John the Baptist since it had more illustrations.
As we read, I paused often to discuss the significance of certain events within John's life. I also opted to wrap our reading up before the final pages of the book in respect for our younger and more sensitive children. I did not feel that some were ready to process the gruesome death John the Baptist faced, but rather concluded by saying the John the Baptist left this earthly life and entered Heaven.
After the story, I brought out a Baptism Learning Tray. It was absolutely beautiful to see how engaged the children - young and older - were in the presentation I gave, which was quite similar to the one I offered my own children when I first put together a tray like this in 2013. It was equally as heart-warming to witness each child take such care in baptizing our "baby", who they collectively named Jeffrey Andrew John Jesus.
John the Baptist's Life in Water Balloon Games
Finally, it was time for the water balloon games that the children had waited so patiently for as all our balloons were filled! Each game was designed to remind the children of a part of John the Baptist's life story.
Mute Like John's Dad
Before the first game, I asked the children if they recalled who John the Baptist's parents were - Zacharias and Elizabeth. We recalled how an angel appeared to Zacharias and told him that Elizabeth would have a son and that they must call him John, how Zacharias thought his wife was too old to conceive a child, and how Zacharias then was struck dumb until after John's birth. In memory of the birth of the conception of John, the children were challenged to move water balloons from one bucket to another, making sure each child touched each balloon and not talking at all.
That done with relative ease, they then were challenged to move the balloons back to the initial bucket without using their voices or their hands!
Leaping in the Womb
Before our next game, the children recalled the story of the Visitation. We talked about how John and Jesus were cousins and how when Mary, withchild with Jesus, and Elizabeth, carrying John, met, John lept in Elizabeth's womb.
To recall this story, the children were challenged to hop, with a water balloon betwixt their knees, as fast as they could.
For our third game, we recalled how John the Baptist was a great teacher who pointed the way toward Jesus. We remembered how he said, "Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." (John 3:11)
Then, in teams, we attempted to toss and catch water balloons using large tee shirts. It was so much fun!
Baptism with Water
Finally, we discussed again how John the Baptist baptized people in water while Jesus came to baptize us in the Spirit. In honor of this, we had a free-for-all balloon baptism battle!
After that, the fellowship, fun and water play continued.
What a fun event it was! Perhaps something we enjoyed will inspire a future faith-based event for you and yours.
What are some of your favorite John the Baptist books, activities, games and resources?