“Celebrating festivals illuminates our life on earth with heavenly meaning and shows us the significance of our human existence in the universe. We human beings stand between the two worlds uniting them in ourselves. We are the crossing point where the upper circle representing the heavens flows into the lower one belonging to the earth.”
– Evelyn Frances Derry, Festivals and Seasons
Throughout the year, we can celebrate festivals to connect us with the cycle of nature, establish a yearly rhythm for our children, and strengthen our community.
Autumn is a time to reflect on our inner selves, to find the inner light that will carry us through this time of darkness. It can be an opportunity to know ourselves more profoundly. We can mark this season of inner searching with fall festivals to help guide us on this path of introspection. Our ancestors must have spent many transitions from summer to fall worrying and doubting whether the sun would ever return to its full brightness. This time of year triggers feelings of doubt, fear, and anxiety, possibly stemming from our ancestors' times around fires in the darkness of the year. Seeking comfort, our ancestors would have shared stories and songs as nourishing soul food. The flickering light of the fire would have been a beacon of hope. It's helpful to honour the shared human experience of the seasons when heading into Fall. It is very healing to acknowledge feelings of darkness by bringing them into the light. As nature begins to go to sleep around us, we also feel this downward pull to sleep. It's fair to say that this is also when seasonal depression is common. Instead of unconsciously emanating what's happening outside of us, this is a call to create a strong inner light. Everything that we joyfully soaked up during the summertime, from the beauty of the flowers and trees to the long hours of sunlight, can be harvested now as inner light. When we celebrate this call to kindle our inner light, it is most beneficial to participate in rituals with others. Celebrating together brings depth and meaning to the experience.
There are as many ritual and celebrations to choose from as there are communities in the world. It is a beautiful process to choose the ritual that works best for your family based on laocation, values and beliefs, and community. Here are some things you may want to include in your seasonal celebrations;
We'd love to hear about how your family honours the light. Be sure to share with us in the comments below.
We encourage families to recognize the passage of time and the seasonal rhythms through festival celebrations. Festivals provide an opportunity for your community to unite and share wonder, reverence and gratitude. May Festival celebrates the awakening of the earth, the lengthening of days, and the rebirth of nature around us. We celebrate this time of growth with joyous song and dance, playful games and a community picnic.
Traditionally May Festivals are celebrated on May 1st, but we have always found that using the early weeks of May to prepare and then holding the festival later in the month works too. And if you're homeschooling, you can be as flexible as you like.
Here are some ways you can bring a May Festival to your homeschooling community.
By celebrating the passage of the seasons through art, music and story, we strengthen our connection to the rhythms of nature. Wherever you are, and however you celebrate, we wish you a happy, May Festival. We’d love to have you share a short video clip or a few photos of how your family celebrates the season! Please feel free to tag our Facebook or Instagram account, or send us an email to email@example.com
Anthroposophist, mystic, and teacher, Claudia McLaren Lainson explains the Holy Nights:
"In the darkness of Winter’s night, when the great breath of the Earth Mother finds its greatest point of inhalation, human beings are afforded the grace to touch into both magic and miracle. In the pause between her mighty in-breath and out-breath there is a still-point of rest. This still-point has long been known as the Holy Nights. In these blessed Nights, the angels circle the globe as if in a great cosmic dance. They long to speak to listening human hearts. Throughout the ages the ‘listening ones’ on earth have heard the angelic choir; they have received messages of Peace and Love. What is received during these sacred days and nights, resounds a thousand-fold in the year that follows. In this year before us, a great light is striving to find willing human hearts. May we each be the ‘listening ones’ during these Holy Nights. May we work with angels."
Claudia McLaren Lainson is a teacher and Therapeutic Educator. She has been working in the field of Anthroposophy since 1982, when she founded her first Waldorf program in Boulder, Colorado. She lectures nationally on various topics related to spiritual science, human development, the evolution of consciousness and the emerging Christ and Sophia mysteries of the twenty-first century.
The time between December 24th and January 6th offers a period of time in the year, when the veil between the earthly and spiritual world is thinned. This is the time to reflect and meditate on the year that is coming to an end, and to gather wisdom for co-creating your upcoming year with your higher self and spirit guides.
Whoa! That’s a tall order, you may say. Indeed it is! I have taken this meditation on now for 6 years, and each year I take it one step deeper. I believe it starts simply with an awareness of this opportunity, and an intention to take a moment each day to consider or be open to the virtue that is highlighted on this day.
You can trust that the depth in which you experience this opportunity is exactly as it should be.
So how do you do this? We've made it easy for you. See below for 12 days of virtues for you to read each day and reflect on. Your work is to consider how each virtue plays out in your life, generally, and then specifically over the year that is coming to an end. Were there highlights that put this virtue into practice? Were there moments when this virtue could have been strengthened?
When you reflect back over the year, begin with the most recent month of December, and work backwards. Each night you will go back one more month, so that you are reviewing your year in rewind. This act of reflecting backwards elevates our everyday thinking and shifts our awareness to a higher level of observation and reflection.
Once you have a feeling for how this virtue is playing out in your life, you can set an intention for how you would like to deepen or strengthen your connection to this virtue, and a vision of how that might look in your life, and a feeling as to how this will feel for you.
The power of holding the image and feeling will take you deeper into co-creating your upcoming year.
The Stars once spoke to Humankind
It is World Destiny that they are Silent now
To be aware of the Silence
Can become painful for Earthly Human
But in the Deepening Silence
There Grows and Ripens
What Humans Speak to the Stars
To be aware of this Speaking
Can become Strength for Spirit Human
Day 1- LOVE (December 24th)
Love is the meaning of life on earth. Take time to ponder the ways in which you express your love for yourself, your family, romantic intimate partner(s), community, humanity. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand this love into the next year.
Reflect on December 2020, and your experiences.
Day 2- DISCRETION (December 25th )
We learn that there are times to hold our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, and there are times to choose to share them. Not everything, positive or negative in experience, needs to be shared. In silence, the flowering of discretion becomes an ever-deepening meditative force of contemplation. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be STILL into the next year.
Reflect on November 2020, and your experiences.
Day 3- COURAGE (December 26th )
It takes courage to overcome our soul resistance to change. It takes courage to create a future of goodness. Courage, the ability to take on actions and experiences that cause fear. The ability to overcome our resistance, and our fears, and bring more love. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be COURAGEOS into the next year.
Reflect on October 2020, and your experiences.
Day 4- SELF-DISCIPLINE (December 27th )
When we practice parenting our inner Self, we find that we must bring a balance of love and acceptance for where we are at in our evolution, and the healthy push to become more self-disciplined. When we practice self-discipline in our thoughts, speech and actions, this leads to deeper knowledge of our self and other. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be SELF-DISCIPLINED into the next year.
Reflect on September 2020, and your experiences.
Day 5- PATIENCE (December 28th )
Patience is wisdom paired with will power. When patience is practiced, it leads to the gift of spiritual insight. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be PATIENT into the next year.
Reflect on August 2020, and your experiences.
Day 6- CONTENTMENT (December 29th )
When we practice contentment, a feeling of peacefulness in any situation, it brings us the blessing of equanimity. Can I be content with the current moment, even if it is uncomfortable? Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be CONTENT into the next year.
Reflect on July 2020, and your experiences.
Day 7- REVERENCE (December 30th )
This is reverence that is honoring a courteous, tactful heart. This encourages the ability to communicate with kindness and love. To add to this pondering, this day also honours the spiritual nourishment and digestion that is taking place through this whole meditative process. We are digesting the year and nourishing our way forward. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be REVERENT into the next year.
Reflect on June 2020, and your experiences.
Day 8-COMPASSION (December 31st )
Compassion asks us to hold the future of each person as positive and illuminated. Compassion leads to freedom, as we harbor no ill will within us for another. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be COMPASSIONATE into the next year.
Reflect on May 2020, and your experiences.
Day 9- EMPATHY (January 1st)
Here we are reflecting on our capacity for empathy. When we practice selflessness, we are led to an inner awakening. We feel the connection between our Self and the Other, and we become more attune, and more sensitive. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be EMPATHETIC into the next year.
Reflect on April 2020, and your experiences.
Day 10- PERSEVERANCE (January 2nd )
This is the virtue of perseverance to fulfill our soul’s destiny leading us to True Faith. When we feel an inner calling, an inner knowing that we have work to do upon this earth, we have the inner will and steadfastness to work ceaselessly throughout our lives. This inner knowing that we are called to bring to life, is our True Faith in the meaning and purpose of our life. In this way, we each bring our gift to the world, and to the people linked to us by our destiny. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to PERSEVERE into the next year.
Reflect on March 2020, and your experiences.
Day 11- INNER BALANCE (January 3rd )
This is inner balance of soul, body and spirit. It also refers to the balance of our outer work with our inner life. When we find balance in these realms, this leads us to our soul’s progression along our spiritual path. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to be INWARDLY BALANCED into the next year.
Reflect on February 2020, and your experiences.
DAY 12- DEVOTION (January 4th )
We contemplate devotion that leads to self-sacrifice. When we devote ourselves to something greater than ourselves, we feel the power of self-sacrifice, and in this way we serve human evolution. Be open to visions of how you would like to expand your ability to feel DEVOTED into the next year.
Reflect on January 2020, and your experiences.
DAY 13-INTEGRATION (January 5th )
This night is known as Holy Epiphany in the Christian tradition, but if Christianity does not resonate with you, than this is your own Soul Epiphany that has come from pondering and meditating on your year that has passed and the year you are beginning. All of the virtues are now integrated through the force of Divine Love. We can see the year as a whole and have prepared the foundation for the coming year.
May you each find the sacred place within yourself that allows you to perceive with the eyes and ears of the Divine. You are gathering in community with many who share your perceptions and will work with you on transcendent and holy ways. You are not alone.
Know that there is New Life Awakening within your heart that will bless each day of 2021.
- Jennifer Ross
Seasonal festivals serve to connect humanity with the rhythms of nature. For children, these festivals mark the seasons with joy and anticipation for preparing for these celebrations.
What is Advent?
Advent is a Christian festival that celebrates the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is about the spirit of peace, warmth, light, and gentle preparation. The winter holiday season, in most of the major religions, shares the theme of bringing light and warmth into the dark, and this is expressed by physically lighting up the darkness with candles and holiday lights, as well as by sharing the light of each others’ company, family, food, and traditions of giving. In what can often be a stressful time of year for families, Advent offers a slower, kinder rhythm and an inwardly richer view.
How can you celebrate Advent at home?
In Waldorf education, each week of Advent is assigned a "theme" and is a time for reflection and gratitude for the four natural kingdoms on Earth. The first week is stones & minerals; the second week, plants; the third week is the animal kingdom; the fourth week is humankind.
A simple first step to bringing Advent to your family could be to light a candle each night (or once a week on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas), say the verse lines for that week and read stories that focus on that week's theme. You could also bring rocks to place around your candle in the first week, followed by something to represent the rest of the themes during those weeks.
Waldorf/Steiner Verse for Advent: (Beginning the first week, you speak the first two lines, then the second week, you build upon the first by saying the first two lines and adding the next two, etc. By the fourth week, you are saying all eight lines of the verse).
The first light of Advent is the light of stones.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants.
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.
The light of hope that we see, in the greatest and the least.
The fourth light of Advent is the human light.
The light of hope and of thought, to know and do what's right.
St. Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th after the first week of Advent. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, encourages generosity, kindness and the idea that it is better to give than to receive. If you wish to bring this part of Advent to your family, please read more about it HERE.
After the second week of advent, the Celebration of Santa Lucia, also known as the festival of lights, happens. Traditionally, a young woman would represent Santa Lucia, and on the morning of December 13th, wearing a white dress with a red sash and a wreath on her head with seven candles upon it, she would go from house to house bringing baked goods. The candles of her headpiece brought a welcoming light to the darkest time of year. You can read more about it HERE.
The gift of the light
We shall thankfully take
But it shall not be alone for our sake.
The more we give light,
The one to the other,
It grows and gives light,
And shines even farther.
Unitl every heart,
By love set aflame
In every place
Great joy shall proclaim.
Not long shall continue the darkness of year.
The light draws near.
The Advent Spiral happens on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, after the third week of Advent. In a darkened room, Cedar boughs (a symbol of life everlasting) are placed in a spiral forming a path. In the centre of the spiral, there is a large lit candle. With an unlit candle in hand, Children and parents take turns walking the path in silence, to the centre where they light their candle and then place it with care along the path as they slowly exit the spiral. As more and more candles get lighted, their gentle light begins to glow with the warmth of your family. The reverence of children and parents make this traditional event one of inspiration and harmony. We are nearing the end of our journey through the darkness, internally and externally, and the light will soon return. This light will bring the promise of a new year that we will approach with a renewed sense of self and emerge from the darkness transformed.
There are so many ways to celebrate Advent and count down to Christmas. Here are a few we found, but you could easily do some more research and find something that would work for your family.
"I carry a light within me
A brightly burning flame.
Though dark may try to win me
It ever shines the same.
It guides me through uncertainty
It warms the wintry weather.
And brings to every burden
The lightness of a feather."
Felted Artwork by Mimi Hirsch
The Meaning of Martinmas
Throughout the year, Waldorf schools celebrate festivals to connect with the cycle of nature, establish a yearly rhythm for the children, and strengthen the community. The Festival of Compassion (Martinmas) is celebrated around November 11, between Michaelmas' fiery out-breath and the winter holidays' deep in-breath. Universally, it honours St. Martin's story, patron saint of beggars and outcasts, who was known for his gentleness and his ability to bring warmth and light to those in need. He is best known for his act of kindness toward a poor beggar freezing outside in the cold. Martin used his sword to cut his cloak in two and gave one half to the beggar. This act of compassion, which gave the beggar warmth and hope, is why this festival is also called the Festival of Compassion. Waldorf Schools celebrate this festival by making lanterns with the children and gathering together for an evening Lantern Walk.
The essence of this festival is to acknowledge the light that shines forth from each of us. This light needs to be protected, just as the lights inside our lanterns do, so they don’t blow out.
Autumn is a time to reflect on our inner selves, to find the inner light that will carry us through this time of darkness. It can be an opportunity to know ourselves more deeply. Waldorf schools mark this season of inner searching with three fall festivals to help guide us on this introspection path. In September, the Festival of Courage (Michaelmas) and St. Michael urges us to battle with courage to face and conquer our “dragons”. In early November, there is the Festival of Compassion (Martinmas), where we observe St. Martin’s compassion for others. In December, St. Nicholas brings the gifts of wisdom, reflection, and review upon the year's events. These three figures model strength in the qualities of willing, feeling and thinking.
As we journey into the darkest time of the year, it is increasingly important for each of us to kindle warmth and light in our hearts. The gently glowing lanterns of Martinmas will give way to the candles of the Festival of Wisdom (Advent Spiral) as we draw nearer to the Solstice, showing how our inner light must shine ever brighter against the cold. As nature sleeps, we must be wakeful!
How can you bring this festival to your homeschooling family?
You could make some lanterns:
There are many ways to make lanterns, all of them fun and easy. The simplest way is to take a glass jar and, using some white glue mixed with a bit of water and a paint brush, glue bits of coloured tissue paper to the outside of the jar. You can glue at random or make pictures and shapes with the tissue paper, whatever works for your family and your children's age level. Adding a handle can be done in various ways, from pipe cleaners to flexible wire; you can even add beads to the handle.
If you have access to beeswax, another way to spend an afternoon with your children is to make a beeswax lantern. You can melt beeswax in a double boiler and dip an inflated balloon halfway into the wax. Let the first layer dry and then dip again and repeat. You can add leaves between layers as well. Once finished, carefully pop the balloon add some sand to the lantern's bottom, then place a tea-light on top of the sand to stop the candle from melting the bottom of your lantern.
There are many other ways to make lanterns. Get creative and have fun!
You could plan a lantern walk:
With your family and perhaps with some other families, you could plan to meet in a park or at some local trails in the early evening when the sun is just setting. With your lanterns lit, you can take a quiet meditative walk while singing some lantern songs.
Here are some lantern songs:
The Sunlight Fast is Dwindling
The sunlight fast is dwindling.
My little lamp needs kindling.
It’s beam shines far in darkest night,
Dear lantern guard me with your light.
You can listen to this song HERE.
Glimmer, Lantern, Glimmer
Glimmer lantern glimmer, little stars a-shimmer
Over meadow, moor and dale
Flitter-flutter, elfin veil
Pee-wit, pee-wit, tic a tic a tic, roo-coo, roo-coo
Glimmer lantern glimmer, little stars a-shimmer
Over rock and stock and stone
Wander tripping little gnome
Pee-wit, pee-wit, tic a tic a tic, roo-coo, roo-coo
You can listen to this song HERE.
I Go with My Bright Little Lantern
I go with my bright little lantern
My lantern is going with me
In heaven the stars are shining
On Earth shines my lantern with me
My light shines bright, through darkest night
La bimba, la bamba, la bim (repeat last 2 lines)
You can listen to this song HERE.
You could donate to the Food Bank:
As this festival is about compassion, you could follow St. Martin's footsteps and make a donation to the food bank or think of some other way to bring warmth and hope to others.
In this time of turning inward, may you find your light shining brightly and remember that even the tiniest flame can dispel the darkness.
What is Michaelmas?
Michaelmas (pronounced Mi-kel-miss) was originally a Christian festival in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. It is the feast day of the archangel St. Michael, and is celebrated at the end of September and beginning of October each year.
Because Michaelmas falls near the equinox, it is commonly associated with the beginning of autumn. Waldorf schools use Michaelmas to teach students the importance of using courage to prepare for the colder, darker, winter months as we begin to feel the impulse to turn inward after the long, warm days of summer, and gather up strength and fortitude to face the colder days and long nights of the winter ahead. In addition to honoring St. Michael and marking the beginning of fall, Michaelmas represents harvest time – a time when people make preparations for the winter.
In Waldorf schools, Michaelmas, or the Festival of Courage, is the first festival of the new school year. Traditionally, Grades children perform the play of St. George taming a fiery dragon with the help of the archangel, St. Michael, who gives him courage. Following the play there is a small harvest themed feast which usually includes fresh baked dragon bread baked by the school children and fruits and vegetables that are in season, like apples and grapes.
The story of taming the dragon symbolizes the inner courage it takes to face our human challenges. As the days grow colder and the nights grow longer, we must find and bring forth our own inner light when the sun, warmth and growth of the earth are fading.
St. Michael, who in some versions of the story, gave courage to St. George and in others, gives courage to all the brave people of the village who have to work together to save themselves. Whatever the version, these stories give us courage to uphold what is right and true, and the strength to face the challenges that lie ahead. The story speaks to children in a deeply symbolic way, feeding their innate need for truth and justice.
“Michaelmas is a great time to ponder our own inner dragons and to cultivate the courage and strength necessary for self development.” – from Waldorf Publications newsletter
Why are Festivals important to Waldorf education?
Festivals allow us to be attuned to the rhythms of the Earth and the community we live in. Regardless of personal beliefs and faith, every human being can connect with the magic and gifts that each turning of the seasons brings.
How can you bring this Festival to your homeschooling family?
Your family can read stories about St. Michael, there are lots to chose from out there. In this first version which is typically told in Waldorf schools, the dragon is slain and this second version, instead the dragon is tamed by St. Michael and becomes a friend to all. You can decide which version is best for your family. Here's a completely different Michaelmas story about stars and courage instead of dragons. The key element of these stories and the Michaelmas festival as a whole, is that it celebrates inner strength and courage.
Here is an Autumn verse:
Golden light is turning grey,
Mists begin to rule the day.
Bare the trees, their branches lift;
Clouds of dead leaves earthward drift.
Through the field the farmer goes,
Seeds of ripened corn he sows;
Trusts the earth will hold it warm,
Shelter it from cold and harm.
For he knows, that warmth and light
Live there, hidden from our sight;
And beneath a sheltering wing,
Deep below, new life will spring!
Deep below, deep below, new life will spring!
And an Autumn Blessing:
Brave and true will I be,
Each good deed sets me free,
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right!
I will conquer the wrong!
Sword of Michael brightly gleaming,
Down to earth its light is streaming,
May we see its shining rays
In the Winter’s darkest days.
Your family can spend a morning making bread and forming it into the shape of a dragon and invite friends over to share a fall harvest feast. This is a beautiful story you can tell your children while you are preparing the dragon bread, as well as a recipe.
Earth who gives to us this food
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Sun above, Earth below
Our loving thanks to you we show
Michaelmas Hands-on Activity:
When we once ran our little Waldorf school, for Michaelmas one year, we had students create a paper mâché dragon. Michaelmas is the Festival of Courage and a time to gather our strength to overcome the shadows within us, shadows like bad habits. We asked students and families to write any bad habits they were wanting to free themselves of on pieces of paper. Then we had them place those inside the dragon's mouth to later be consumed by fire thereby releasing them. After the festival, the dragon was brought to safe place on a family's property to be burned. You could easily create this at home with your child(ren) in the way that would work best for you.
Fun Outdoor Activities:
Go outside and choose activities that require strength, courage, and bravery, such as; going on a challenging hike, having a tug-of-war with friends and family, and having a scavenger hunt for “dragon eggs” (these can be small gourds spray-painted gold).
Michaelmas is the beginning of the fall season, and the beauty of homeschooling is that these activities can be extended and enjoyed throughout October.
As Parents, this is a wonderful opportunity to use this time to focus on our inner work and spiritual growth. Take time for meditation and journal writing, and think about the areas you would like to grow.
Whether you do none of the activities, some of them, or all of them plus more, whether you celebrate with just your family or beyond, may you find your inner strength and courage as we head into these darker days.
Explore schedules, rhythms & routines, songs, music, festivals, free play, meals, projects & more to support your homeschooling program.
The Wonder Squad