Waldorf education celebrates the rhythm of the year through festivals honoring the season and the natural world. As we celebrate and mark the passage of the seasons through art, music, and story, we deepen our connection to the working rhythms of nature and through our shared experiences we deepen our relationships with each other and create community.
Michaelmas, as it is observed in Waldorf schools, is the “festival of courage” celebrated as the earth traverses the tail end of the late summer meteor showers and the northern hemisphere begins to tilt away from the sun. The grades children work in the beginning weeks of school on a play they perform for attendees, and the older grades children make dragonbread as they study the tale of St. Michael and the dragon. Through the inspiration of Michael, lowly peasant George was inspired to persevere, though the odds were stacked against him, to complete a daunting task, slaying the dragon. As Michaelmas is celebrated in autumn, near the equinox, we often enjoy a meal and an apple squeeze to celebrate the harvest.
In late autumn we celebrate Martinmas (Lantern Walk), honoring the holding of inner light through winter’s darkness. Martinmas has been called the “festival of compassion.” Based on the story of St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who abandoned his position of high rank and wealth to devote his life to serving the poor, this festival invites us to follow the lantern light through the gathering darkness, joining with others who also have chosen the way of compassion. The Hindu Diwali “festival of lights” also takes place around this time. Our yearly path for the lantern festival varies, by lighted by the lanterns the children have made during school time, we march and sing songs of light.
In early December, Advent is another beautiful celebration of light and of finding oneself, as each child in turn walks the spiral of gently laid evergreen boughs, lights a candle, and carries it back out again, stopping to place their glowing candle along the path. Traditionally a time of quiet and introspection, the advent spiral is usually accompanied by some gentle music, and is a moving experience. This “spiraling” represents going inward — during the darkest time of the year — and kindling your own inner light.
Our Winter Faire falls in late autumn/early winter, as well. A holistic celebration of the season, this event often involves craft activities, music, a play or puppet show, good homemade food, and more. Children and families have a great time in a wholesome atmosphere, celebrating the season in an authentic way that resonates with many these days. But rest easy, there is also an opportunity to get a head start (or finish up!) holiday shopping with some simple and meaningful gifts and crafts.
This spring festival is a celebration of new growth and the return of the external light. The grades children promenade into the festival and do some traditional singing and dancing around the maypole, artfully wrapping the pole in the colorful ribbons. Then the younger children and community members are welcomed to take a turn around the maypole (a simpler turn, thankfully!), while music and merriment commence. Strawberry shortcake is served, while children get their faces painted and make blossom crowns.