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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Seasonal Festivals at Waldorf Schools

Nov 30, 2014 11:06AM

web-holiday-fairWinter Fair

Saturday, December 13 • 11am-4pm

Come one, come all to an enchanting celebration of the holiday season, with children’s crafts, delicious fare, live music and King Winter himself! River Valley Waldorf School 1395 Bridgeton Hill Road Upper Black Eddy, PA

For information, call 610-982-5606 or visit


It is no accident that many cultures traditionally held festivals during the darkening days of the fall. Celebrations of light, community, caring and personal strength remind us to carry the abundance of summer into the cold days of winter. Waldorf schools continue this tradition as a way to encourage in their students, the resilience needed to navigate the darker periods of life, whether personal or seasonal.

Near the Autumnal Equinox Michaelmas (the feast of Saint Michael) is celebrated as the festival of strong will. Stories of Saint (Archangel) Michael slaying the dragon are acted out, songs to him are sung and throughout this season, students naturally feel a strength of purpose and will as the days begin to grow shorter and little Jack Frost threatens to appear.

Next comes the Martinmas Lantern Walk, celebrating generosity and moral integrity; legend tells us the soldier Martin of Tours (316-397 AD) dramatically sliced his cloak in two to offer protection from the cold to a pauper at the city gates of Amiens, France. Echoing festivals of light found in numerous traditions, Waldorf students celebrate Martinmas with a song-filled, candle-lit walk through the dark, chilly evening holding a lantern that each has made.

During this reverent, but by no means somber, winding walk accompanied by teachers, family and friends, children may feel a sense of protection and caring not only for those less fortunate than themselves but also for their own spark of light and warmth within which can carry them through the darkening days ahead. Henry David Thoreau, writing in the autumn of 1854 said: “The season of hope and promise is past…We are a little saddened because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented with only a few small berries.” Facing the long cold season, we are as paupers at the gate of winter finding comfort in the light of the lantern and in the example of Martin of Tours.

The autumnal celebrations culminate with the quiet beauty of the Spiral of Light in early December. Students quietly enter their school’s large gathering space. The room has been darkened and the children are met with the sight of an enchanted spiral of made of evergreen boughs laid out on the floor. At the center of the spiral, a single, large candle burns; a symbol of life amidst the dead of winter. One-by-one, the children walk to the center of the spiral to light their candle from the center. As they slowly journey back out with their own small candle held so carefully before them, each child selects just the right place along the path to set their light. By the time the last child is through, the spiral will have become beautifully illuminated, reminding us all of our own, internal flame constantly glowing, and that soon, the darkest night of the year will herald the joyful return of light.

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