Everyone’s heard of Renaissance Faires, but have you ever heard of a Biblical faire? It’s basically the same thing (complete with period foods, clothing, demonstrations, and architecture) but ancient times are showcased instead of the more modern medieval times.
Need More Convincing?
There are many reasons for parents to put their talents to good use on such a project: #1, it’s great for home-schooling families or families who would like to supplement their Sunday school lessons; #2, kids love dressing up and trying new things, and #3 if the family is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, it will be even more interesting for kids since they have cultural ties to the Middle East. That makes the project even more exciting.
Renaissance Faires are pretty well organized; a Biblical faire doesn’t have to be. After all, nothing was set by strict rules back then. There were streets, rows of low, white-washed houses, donkey paths and gates through the city, and vendors selling crafts, foods, and other items. There was probably very little rhyme or reason to who sold what when.
The Beginning: Setting the Scene
To create the look of first century houses, find some huge cardboard boxes, tables, shipping crates; whatever you can find. Paint them white or off-white and then paint darker squares and rectangles for doors and windows. Want to be even more authentic? Cut out the spaces where the windows will go, place a small table or platform inside, and set a candle (preferably unlit!) inside the window.
Once you’ve created buildings, it’s time to make a streetsetting. In a regular yard, put down strips of cardboard or planks of wood in symmetrical lines to resemble “paths.” If there is a quarry or another place to get stones nearby, sprinkle a few over the planks. Now you have a bonafide Roman road. It’s also fine to just use grass so no one has to bother with making pathways. The stalls will probably be the hardest things to make. Overturned tables covered with long headscarves, plain-color tablecloths, or pieces ofmaterial should do nicely. It would be especially ideal if there are any crates or boxes left over from the homemade “streets” since these would work as well.
The Marketplace Reconstructed
Make sure to only display things that would have existed in Biblical Judea/Israel/Egypt, or whatever country is represented. For instance, a stand with nails, ahammer, and planks of wood could represent a carpenter, and a stall covered with bread-making items (no mixers or silver utensils, please) would make a convincing food stall.
Research what items would have been used in the era in question and see what method comes closest to being realistic. The items can either sit around only for show, or can actually be used to demonstrate crafts and cooking. Is your church group coming? Show the children how to bake bread. Are kids studying ancient history in school? Demonstrate the different parts of clothing that people wore in ancient times.
Creating the Perfect Costume is Easy
One option is to find some Middle Eastern music to set the mood, but since they didn’t exactly have music playing in the streets in Bible times, this might not be the best choice for the faire. Clothing is the next important step; it’s actually easier than it looks. Parents can go all out and buy Biblical costumes, complete with robe, fake beard, staff, and headdress; that’s their own personal choice, but most of it can be improvised.
Have any long, plain-colored robes, housedresses, regular dresses, or cardigans? Put them to good use. Old towels sewn together (preferably tan or white with a dark stripe, or another ancient-looking design) can make a convincing Biblical outfit. A white dress from a confirmation, religious event, or wedding can be gussied up with a homemade or store-bought linen headdress, a gold rope sash, and plain brown sandals.
Men and women’s clothing was rather similar (long, floor-length robe-style outfits with belts, sandals, and headdresses) so you’ll want to research to find out exactly what the differences were. Because such outfits were plain and loose-fitting, they are easy to recreate, which helps tremendously when you’re planning a Biblical faire. If kids absolutely have nothing to wear that sets them apart from the 21st century, have them sit behind a stall so only the top half is visible, and try to cover that half as well as possible!
Contests and “Minding One’s Tongue”
Consider having contests like a bread-baking contest or a whittling contest, etc. Award small prizes for the winners. The prizes should also connect with your theme; little boxed sets containing vials of water, oil, dirt, or incense from the Holy Land are a great idea for this. You could also make “certificates” or give out gift cards or small party favors.
There should be some kind of a “language” code; for instance, everyone doesn’t have to say “thee” and “thy” all day but there should be a rule against using thoroughly modern slang. Would a man from Biblical Jerusalem *really* say something like “Hey, cool, man”?