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Catholic Activity: Shadow-Box Show and Procession for Candlemas


  • grocery carton or box (11" x 11" x 15")
  • tissue paper
  • tape
  • knife for cutting cardboard
  • paper, fabric or wallpaper to cover box
  • cardboard
  • stiff paper
  • drawing pencils
  • candle set in saucer
  • matches
  • Prep Time

  • N/A
  • Difficulty

  • • •
  • Cost

  • $$ $ $
  • For Ages

  • 6+
  • Activity Types

    Linked Activities


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The children can tell the story of the Purification and the Presentation and present it in their shadow-box theater.


On Candlemas night at our feast-day dinner, there are two tiny white sugar doves on the cake. After dinner the children tell the story of the Purification and the Presentation and present it in their shadow-box theater.

A shadow-box theater is easily made from a grocery carton, some tissue paper, gummed tape, and cardboard. Our present theater is made from a box about 11" X 11" X 15". Take the flaps off and set it on its side. On what was originally the bottom of the box, cut a stage opening about an inch in from sides and floor of theater, with a swag-like cut across the top like a theater curtain drawn up. Tape tissue paper over this opening, leaving enough lap on all four sides to tape it to the sides of the box. Cover the entire box with fabric, wall paper, or whatever suits your fancy.

The dramatis personae in this case are Mary, Joseph, Simeon holding the Child Jesus, and Anna the prophetess. These are cut from stiff paper in silhouette. They must be generous in length as they are inserted in slits in the floor of the stage, and part of their shadow is lost crossing the stage floor. The action of the figures must be simple and distinct so that the silhouette will tell clearly what they are doing. If you cannot draw, you can find figures to trace in religious coloring books, cut-out books, stories of the lives of the saints, or the life of Christ for children.

We have Simeon holding the Child up in his arms and gazing to Heaven as he says his Nunc dimittis. Anna, bent over with age, has a prominent nose and chin to distinguish her age, and both arms are extended in awe. Joseph stands serenely with his hand on his staff, and in front of him stands Our Lady, straight and lovely, with her hands together in prayer. All the figures are in profile.

The theater is lighted by a candle stump in a saucer set a foot or so behind the theater (this is variable) and it is best displayed in a darkened room.

This is one of the loveliest of all forms of dramatization for children, for the effect achieved with such crude materials simply and quickly put together, is truly magical. They are always speechless to see it finally lighted with its shadow figures so lifelike. They always say "Ohhhhhhhhh." It is an especially easy medium for learning the mysteries of the Rosary, because once it is put together all that needs changing is the figures.

Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956

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