Many cultures traditionally hold festivals during the darkening days of 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; our festivals help us to nourish our souls through the sharing of stories, food, songs, and activities linked to the seasons and expressed with beauty and reverence.
Near the autumnal equinox we gather to celebrate Michaelmas. Through verse, songs, and dramatizations of Saint Michael slaying the dragon, we celebrate human will, inner strength, courage, and initiative. 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.
Each November our lantern walks celebrate Martinmas, a festival of inner light in the outer darkness of the approaching winter. Waldorf students celebrate Martinmas with a song-filled, candle-lit walk through the dark evening with teachers, family, and friends. Holding a lantern that each has made, the children experience sharing “their own light” as the darkness of winter approaches, and are reminded that each of us has a divine spark that we must ferry out into the world and share with others.
The autumnal celebrations culminate with the beauty of the Spiral of Light in early December. Students quietly enter the school’s gathering space where they are met with the sight of an enchanted spiral 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. 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.