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.
Seasonal festivals renew our awareness of the rhythms of the year and foster the children’s relationship to the world into which they grow. Many festivals are celebrated during the school year and each festival may be observed differently according to the class and teacher. The whole school celebrates some festivals, and others are celebrated only by the Kindergarten. Additional festivals may also be included during the year, according to the curriculum and class diversity. Although many of the festivals we celebrate are associated with particular world religions, the school is non-sectarian and non-denominational, and is committed to providing Waldorf education to all families without economic, social, religious or racial prejudice.
Parents are invited to attend various all-school assemblies held throughout the year.
Rose Ceremony—First Day of School
The first day of school is a rite of passage for the incoming Class 1 children. This is the beginning of their journey through grade school. All of the grade classes are assembled along with parents, faculty, and staff. Kindergarten parents and children are also invited. Each Class 1 child is welcomed to the school by receiving a rose presented by students in the highest grade.
AUTUMN—Festivals of Harvest
Held in the autumn season, this festival includes a play put on by students about St. George, who, empowered by the courage of the Archangel Michael, subdues the dragon with his sword. This festival also includes a community work day and a sharing of food. The Michaelmas Festival takes place at the end of September.
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, reverence, and wonder. As a harvest festival, we can call to mind all the forces of heaven and earth that have provided us with food, clothing, and sustenance. We can remember and thank all who have supported us.
This Jewish festival at the time of harvest is held by Class 3. It is a time to sit in a specially constructed “Sukkah” to share a meal, tell stories, and rejoice in the harvest.
Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve)
This is one of the most beloved of festivals for children in America and Britain and originated as the Celtic festival of Samhain, which celebrated the first day of winter on November 1st. It became a Christian festival in the year 998. Carving pumpkins or turnips is often an activity around the school at this time. The School has special activities in celebration of this festival, such as The Halloween Journey. On or near Halloween night, when the veils are thinner and one can see into the “magic world,” small groups of children are guided by Angel Guides on an enchanting journey of lit pathways past various scenes or characters. At most scenes they receive a simple gift that is symbolic of what they experienced. This is a silent journey that holds a mood of reverence to better witness the magic of the night.
St. Martin of Tours was born in 316 and died on November 11, 397. He is known as a deeply religious man who shared his cloak with a beggar, and represents the attitude of brotherliness. According to old customs at this time, as the days become shorter and the stars appear earlier, children would walk with lanterns through the streets singing. As the world grows darker, the inner light of man wants to shine forth. Kindergarten children, younger grade children, and parents participate in a Lantern Walk.
WINTER—Festivals of Light
Advent—the four weeks prior to Christmas
Advent is from the Latin adventus; the arrival or coming in of the spirit of joy
and peace. This is a time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the coming year. For children, it is a time of waiting and anticipation. Each Monday morning during Advent, the children are gathered together for a special story and lighting of candles. Each Advent week is represented by one of the four kingdoms: mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdom. In these assemblies, the festivals of light of other cultures such as Judaism, Hinduism, etc. are honoured through story, song, or ritual.
Kindergarten classes and the younger grades walk an evergreen spiral path lit by candles. The Advent Spiral marks the beginning of Advent, the four weeks before (avant, in French) Christmas. Advent denotes the turning point in the year when the darker and shorter days become illuminated by candlelight. We experience a mood of anticipation, preparation, and waiting. In walking the spiral of the Advent Garden, the younger children receive, in reverence, the light for their own candles.
Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas Day is a European tradition in which Bishop Nicholas and his silent servant Rupert visit children. Saint Nicholas often visits the classrooms, reads from his golden book, which records the deeds of all the children, and afterwards he leaves gifts for the children. On the eve of December 5, in many traditions children place their shoes outside the door hoping Saint Nicholas will leave a treat.
The Nelson Waldorf School is turned into a Winter Wonderland. This is an opportunity for children and families to share in a Winter Faire, making crafts and presents with the help of student and adult elves. Featuring a shop for children to buy special gifts, candle making, gingerbread decorating, and a hearty café, the Winter Faire is a favorite for young and old alike. Local artisans set up shop in the Silver King Hall to sell their handmade, unique crafts.
According to the old Julian calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year. The ancient people were very much aware of the diminishing daylight and feared the cold and hunger that accompanied the sun’s decline. Men yearned for a friendly spirit to intercede, restoring the light to the earth. Over many centuries, this spirit of light became personified in St. Lucia, the Queen of Light. In the present day, St. Lucia’s Day is most commonly celebrated in Sweden. “Lucia,” usually the eldest daughter who comes singing the ancient Sicilian song “Santa Lucia,” awakens families all over Sweden. Dressed in white and wearing a crown of lighted candles, she presents saffron buns and Christmas cookies to members of the family. Traditionally, Class 2 and Class 8 lead a Santa Lucia celebration for the whole school.
Near the time of the winter solstice, the people of the Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, in remembrance of a miracle that took place in Palestine over 2100 years ago. This festival is a rededication of the Jewish people to the ideals of religious freedom and political liberty under God. The Hanukkah festival lasts eight days. The principal ceremony is the lighting of the Menorah candles, following the same ritual as in the original ceremony. The candles symbolize faith, freedom, courage, love, charity, integrity, knowledge, and peace.
These are traditionally presented the week before Winter vacation, sometimes during school hours.
The Shepherds’ Play
Faculty and staff traditionally perform the reverential and humorous medieval nativity play as a gift to the students and school community. This tradition of The Shepherds’ Play is observed in most Waldorf schools throughout the world.
In the Christmas festival, the great image is of a birth surrounded by love; the Christ child in the stable, with the mother and father, shepherds, and animals. In the dark of winter, the son, “the light of the world,” has been born, just after the winter solstice when the light is now returning. It is the birth of the sun in the deepest darkness of the year.
SPRING—Festivals of Renewal
This celebration can include Maypole dancing, games, music, and food. It is held at the beginning of May to celebrate Spring and the beauty it brings to our campus and our lives as we move through the cycle of the seasons.
Closing and Rose Ceremony
The school year is ending and the entire school gathers for the Rose Ceremony and Closing. The Class 1 students will now give roses to the graduating students who will be going off to High School. The ceremony closes with the school song and the school tradition of a “community handshake,” where all students, teachers, staff, and parents, in a moving circle shake hands.