A Year Filled with Celebration
Waldorf education has at its foundation a recognition of the wholeness and connection of human beings with all life. One way in which this connection manifests is through the observance of the changes in the seasons. Our community festivals connect us with traditional cultures the world over, who have for centuries marked the turning points of the year, the equinoxes and solstices, with ritual and celebration. These events become opportunities for outward observances of nature's seasonal changes, but they can become opportunities to learn about one's own inner movement through the seasons of change as well.
The image of St. Michael with his golden sword piercing the darkness wells up in us, giving us the courage to face the darkening earth. With autumn, the earth draws into herself, and we also begin to draw into ourselves. Winter is the season of inner contemplation. When we look within ourselves, who knows what dragons we will find? The struggle of St. George and the dragon is also a powerful image at Michaelmas. There is not only courage needed to deal with the outer cold and darkness but also within ourselves. Courage is called forth to shine light on those personal challenges we face as socially and morally maturing human beings. When the deeper, inner meaning of festivals is contemplated, a nourishing and sustaining quality enables us to participate and enrich our own lives—and the lives of our families and our community as well.
Michaelmas is our first festival of the year. The celebration includes a play, songs, and games and challenges for all the members of the community—with great festivity and joy.
Martinmas & Lantern Walk
From France comes the legend of St. Martin, who as a young man passed under an archway in the city of Amiens and discovered a poor beggar huddled there. The man was nearly naked, shivering with cold, and had received no alms to assist him. On seeing him, the young Martin took his own cape from his shoulders, tore the garment in half and covered the poor man to warm him. The following night Martin had a dream in which he saw Christ wearing the same piece of his cape. The experience confirmed in him his devotion to all humankind regardless of their station in life.
St. Martin was known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who were previously in darkness. On the evening of Martinmas he is remembered in many French households with a festival of lanterns, carrying light throughout the darkened home, singing songs.
The Martinmas celebration is inspired by old customs honoring St. Martin. As the sun sets earlier and rises later, the world grows darker and the inner light of humankind wants to shine forth. Children and parents gather as the sun sets. Handmade lanterns, often decorated with stars, suns, and moons, are lit as a symbol for the children of their own individual light. And our walk into the cold, dark evening gives the children and their families an experience of caring and sharing as we move toward the darkness of winter.
A second grade student, dressed in white as Santa Lucia and wearing a golden crown aglow with four candles, leads a procession of classmates. Each holds a lit candle as they sing “Santa Lucia” and carry their light throughout the school. The second graders are busy for days before, baking saffron buns to share with their schoolmates, as the procession travels to all the other classes, including the Nursery/Kindergartens.
The Winter Spiral is a festival of light, movement, and symbolic change, and is held for enrolled children up through Grade 3. A spiral of tree boughs and pine cones is laid out on the floor and decorated with crystals, shells, plants, and carved animals representing the kingdoms of nature. Amid beautiful music, each child walks to the center, carrying a cored apple that holds an unlit candle, which is lighted from the tall brightly burning candle there. Moving outward, the child places the candle somewhere along the spiral pathway, bringing it to light. This passage reflects winter's dark growing to a close, and the renewed promise that spring light and life will begin again.
The Winter Spiral is also perhaps the most deeply moving community festival of the year. As part of the Adult Education program, opportunity is provided for adults to walk the spiral and experience its beautiful and powerful symbolism.
May Faire is a celebration carried from ancient times, to say farewell to winter and welcome to spring. Dances around the May Pole have been passed through generations and honor the fertility of the new season. Parents, children, family and friends are invited to share in the festivities as the students dance the May Pole and we all share a community picnic.