At The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, several festivals and celebrations are observed throughout the year, bringing the school community together to share common experiences and to foster a sense of harmony with the rhythmic life of nature.
The Autumn Festival Season
The younger children hear stories of a brave knight who conquers a dragon. The older children present a Michaelmas play, afterwards the children play games that require a touch of daring.
Martinmas is the feast day of Saint Martin, a Roman soldier who became a saint for his selfless kindness and ability to bring warmth and light to those who were in darkness. In our school, we celebrate Martinmas with a festival of lanterns known as The Lantern Walk. Younger children make their own lanterns to take to a dusk walk with their parents along a path lit by candles. This festival gives the children an experience of wonder as we move toward the darkness of winter.
Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. It’s a memorial day. A time to remember relatives and friends who have died. Tradition says that the souls of the dead return to visit their families on this day.
The Day of the Dead is usually celebrated on November 2 but in some communities the festival begins on October 31, continuing several days. The Day of the Dead is a warm-hearted family reunion, a time to remember and welcome the beloved dead. Building an altar with ofrendas in the shame is a common practice, as is visiting graveyards. Graves are cleaned and decorated and families spend the day in the cemetery, often holding a candlelight vigil well into the night.
The Winter Festival Season
The Garden of Light is an early winter festival that happens during the traditional period of Advent, usually in early December. At this time of year, many cultures celebrate holidays seeking to renew both inner and outer lights of life.
Early Childhood students and first and second graders walk in darkness through a beautiful spiral pathway of evergreens interspersed with crystals and toys. Each child receives an apple with a candle in it. The children light their candles and set them along the path, creating a shining spiral of light.
Chanukah, is also a festival of light and many classes observe the festival with the story, song and the lighting of the menorah.
The Spring Festival Season
Easter and Passover are part of this festival time and are celebrated before Spring Break.
May Faire is the spring celebration of rejuvenating forces and beauty of nature and life in general. Held in the beginning of May, this festival brings together the whole school community. People enjoy dancing around the Maypole, singing, playing games and making flower crowns.
Additional Festivals Observed
Throughout the year individual classes celebrate festivals that are age-appropriate or closely related to the curriculum such as Succoth, the Jewish harvest festival. Assemblies are held throughout the year to celebrate festivals and national holidays (i.e. Martin Luther King Jr. Day).