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Though the brief birthday ritual below was designed for Catholic classroom settings, it can be adapted for home use and for non-Catholics. Excerpted from from 'Sign and Symbol, Word and Song' with permission of Ave Maria Press.

Choose one child to serve as lector. Make sure the lector practices ahead of time.

Either at the beginning or at the end of class:

Set up a table in the front of the room with candles, preferably one for each year. Pour a small amount of perfumed oil into a dish or bowl. You may choose to have donuts, some sweet bread or cake, crackers or animal crackers, being aware of diabetic children or children whose parents prefer they not have sugar.

Process up to the front of the room with the birthday person, singing an Alleluia refrain that's common in your parish. If during Lent, sing a Lenten refrain without an Alleluia.

Catechist: [Name of child], the longer you are with us, the more light you bring into our lives. As we light these candles, we recognize the light of your life, and ask Jesus to bring his life to you.

(Catechist lights candles, or several children can each light a candle. After candles are lit, the lector goes to the book, bows in front of it, and reads Jeremiah 1:4-8.)

Lector: A reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah:

"This is what the Lord said to me: 'I knew you even before you grew in your mother's body. Before you were born, I dedicated you as a prophet to all the people.' 'Oh Lord God!' I said. 'I do not know how to speak of you; I am too young.' But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say that you are too young. Go everywhere I send you and say whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid. I am with you.'"

Response: Thanks be to God.

(Catechist asks all children to place a hand on the birthday child. If there are too many children to do so or if the birthday child is uncomfortable with it, the catechist places a hand on the child's head and asks the rest of the class to raise their hands in blessing.)

Catechist: [Name] we thank God for your life.

Response: We bless you in the name of Jesus.

Catechist: We thank God for your [sense of humor, math ability, kindness].

Response: We bless you in the name of Jesus.

Catechist: We thank God for your smile.

Response: We bless you in the name of Jesus.

Catechist: We ask God to help you to be healthy and strong.

Response: We bless you in the name of Jesus.

Catechist: We pray that you will know Jesus better every day.

Response: We bless you in the name of Jesus.

Catechist: We now anoint you with oil, a sign of your blessedness before God.

(Dip your fingers in the oil and make a Sign of the Cross on the child's hands. Then hold the child's hands in yours as you continue the blessing. The rest of the class continues to have their hands raised.)

Catechist: God of all creation, you have given us the gift of [name]. We thank you for the years [name] has had upon your earth, and we ask your continued blessings upon her/him. Let the warm breath of your love fill her/him as you speak in the quiet whispers of his/her heart. Grant that [name] may grow as strong as your holy mountain and as faithful as your Son. We offer all these prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

(Sing "Happy Birthday.")

Catechist: We now share with each other a sweet treat, signifying the sweetness of [name's] life.

(Share the treats.)

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