Library Lady's Corner
Imbolc, Groundhog Day, St. Brigid’s Day, Candlemas Day and the Celtic Calendar of Celebrations February 01 2023
By the ancient Celtic calendar, the year was divided into four seasons. The mighty passage of the sun through these periods signaled the change of seasons—as it does for us today. These days and times vary slightly from year-to-year. For 2023 the dates for the Northern Hemisphere are:
The Summer Solstice (June 21) marks the longest day of the year when there is more daylight than on any other day of the year.
The Autumnal Equinox (September 22) marks the day in fall when there is an exact equality of daylight and darkness.
Saint Nicholas and Building a Capacity for Self-Reflection in the Young - A Waldorf Perspective December 05 2022
December 6 is the day marked to celebrate the legendary Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343)—the prototype for our North American Santa Claus. His feast day is often celebrated in Waldorf schools, though in some schools his celebration has been disapproved and removed for being too Eurocentric or too harsh for children. His legends are rooted in German lore and in Dutch stories (Sinterklaas* is his name in Dutch). But vestiges of this remarkable saint pop up in many places throughout Europe, Turkey, parts of Dutch-colonized African countries, North America and elsewhere.
Traditionally when Saint Nicholas appears to children, he wears the garb of an early Christian bishop* (so he wears a funny mitered hat, as some children would tell you) and he carries a large golden book. In this book are written all the good deeds children have done on one page, and on the opposing page, unfortunate deeds and challenges facing the child are written. Saint Nicholas addresses each child with these balancing facts of the little one’s life.
Hallowe’en Part 2: Through a Waldorf Lens October 28 2022
Our Own Children Now on Hallowe’en - Through a Waldorf Lens
Hallowe’en is meant to be fun, of course, but it also holds opportunities for us to allow our children to experience that death, too, is a part of life. Skeletons, ghosts (Ireland for a century or two kept a census of ghosts as well as of the living), and the barren fields after the harvest all speak to the human heart of the end of life. Children are no different and they sense on a deep intuitive level that this is true. It isn’t necessary (or beneficial) to frighten children, especially under the age of nine or so. Young children will experience the feelings around Hallowe’en without undue prompting.
Hallowe’en Part I: Samhain –– The Celtic roots of Hallowe’en October 27 2022
It figures that the land of Banshees, fairies and Leprechauns would be the starting place for a holiday like Hallowe’en. The Celtic word “Samhain” is actually pronounced “Sow-in.” This word literally translates as “summer’s ending.” After the harvest was gathered and stored, livestock had been sorted for slaughter or breeding, and the earth was perceived to have exhausted herself, this festival of Samhain was one of four high festivals of the Druid religion.
Leftovers from the harvested fields were piled up and burned. The rituals surrounding this festival had much to do with clearing away the old to make way for the new –– purging the old field to prepare the fields for new crops. It was also the last day of the Druid year and the day when all departed souls would return to their homes and when malevolent spirits were released as the earth gave up her strength and could hold these spirits back no more.
The bonfires offered some protection from these released unresting souls. The momentary instability of the boundaries between death and life made all sorts of spirits free to roam and haunt and frighten people. Fairies and leprechauns were not believed to be sweet and endearing beings but were untrustworthy and tricky sprites who needed to be outsmarted and watched carefully. “Changeling” babies could be substituted for one’s own child if the cradle were not carefully tended. Children were often dressed in disguises so that the fairies wouldn’t know who they were to steal them away and leave the family with some strange substitute for a little brother or sister. At Samhain, disguises were very important. Unattractive disguises, including downright ugly masks, drove the sprightly thieves away.
The Irish left food and treats out on the table to both appease these potentially unkind spirits, hoping that a show of hospitality might deter them from doing any harm or stealing any children, and also to welcome in the ancestors who might find their way home on this dark, important night. Also, parsnips or turnips (grown to bigger sizes on the Emerald Isle than in the USA) were hollowed out, carved, and lit with candles to shine the beloved home to the houses of their births, lives, and deaths. The traditions of treats and hollowed and lighted produce can been seen as starting here.
Farm animals were anointed with holy water to protect them through the night of roaming spirits. And unmarried girls would go blindfolded into the almost empty fields searching for cabbages. If they pulled up the first cabbage they stumbled upon and it had a lot of clay on the roots, the girl’s future husband would be rich.
Apples were considered a symbol of fertility and a happy marriage. Bobbing for apples or attempting to eat an apple on a string informed a girl of her future. She would keep the apple she first bit into and put it under her pillow that night. Tradition held that she would then dream of her future husband. Other blindfold games of Samhain included a table filled with varying objects. Blindfolded people would reach out and touch something and this would foretell the future. James Joyce’s short story, “Clay,” well describes this practice. A bowl of water meant emigration. A ring meant an impending wedding. A lump of clay implied death.
Orange and black were considered the colors of death. Irish famine immigrants brought these Irish traditions with them to America in the middle of the nineteenth century.
Waldorf Festivals and Santa Lucia (St. Lucy's Day) December 13 2021Recently, we spoke to a Waldorf school-educated and recent college graduate about an experience she had had in second grade. She spoke of how this childhood event had helped get her through difficult times during her college years. The picture of this experience gave her more confidence in her studies and further underlined the importance of developing clear thinking. She held an image in her mind of the light shining good, pure thinking out into the world. She has cherished this picture and expressed her wish that all children could have this.
What is the Winter Garden or Advent Spiral in a Waldorf School? November 29 2021
Garden of Light
In a Winter Garden,
Dark the Earth below,
Earth is waiting, waiting, waiting
For her seeds to grow.
Many young children are afraid of the dark. Actually, many grown ups are afraid of the dark too. Late autumn and early winter, when the days grow short and the darkness dominates everything, festivals help mark the time until the light begins to fill the days again.
First there is Michaelmas or The Feast of St. Michael: This is at Autumn equinox when day is exactly as long as night. The stories at this time help us gather courage. This courage serves us when Halloween comes and the earth breathes out its last of the year’s efforts of growth and the harvest is done. The quiet is absolute and scary! Death is apparent in all the fields. The day of the Dead in Latin cultures is at this time. Next is followed, in the United States, with Thanksgiving. Our hearts relax and experience gratitude when we realize the abundance of the harvest and the good fortune we have to be alive. Gathering with family and close friends to prepare for the winter season gives us comfort.
During the month of December, the days grow their darkest. In Waldorf schools, just after Thanksgiving, there is a celebration called the Winter Garden, or the Advent Garden. Advent means “To Come” and aside from this term used in some religious celebrations, it is meant to announce the coming of the light.
Karl König, anthroposophical doctor in the early part of the twentieth century, invented this celebration for Camphill Villages, to give community members a way to picture the need for light in the darkness, a way to anticipate mindfully the return of the light. Many cultures and religions have celebrations at this December time of year: Hanukkah, Christmas, and Druid Solstice ceremonies to name a few..
For the Advent Spiral or Winter Garden, children come into a darkened room filled with a spiral of evergreens on the floor. Teachers carefully prepare this spiral of living greens. The evergreens make a path for children to walk in a spiral to the center. The evergreen spiral is dotted with crystals, flowering plants, and other treasures. In the center of the spiral is a candle. Into the dark room comes one child carrying a lighted taper. Often this child is dressed in white like an angel. Walking slowly around the spiral to show the watching children how to do it slowly and mindfully, the "angel" then lights the candle waiting at the center of the spiral.
Then, one by one each child goes to the start of the spiral, receives from a teacher an apple with a candle inserted into a carved hole in the apple. The child walks the spiral with the unlit candle, goes to the center and lights the candle on the central candle that was lighted by the “angel” of the Winter Garden, the first child. Once the candle is lit, the child walks carefully back through the spiral and finds a place on the spiral to set the apple with the now-lit candle down. Then the next child comes and does the same thing. Each child has a turn until all the children have had the chance to light a candle and place it on the spiral. Music plays and fills the room while the children walk the garden and light their candles one by one.
By the end of the ceremony, the spiral is bright with light, illuminated with all the children’s candles. This offers the children a powerful picture of light in the darkness, of one’s candle contributing to the great light with others in the dark world, of the coming of light from each of us. It offers a reminder of the reliable turning of the sun from weakness to strength each year at the Winter Solstice. Waiting quietly in the darkness for the return of the light, contributing a little bit from each person to make the world bright, are important lessons to learn for life.
Few words and powerful pictures offer the best kind of learning.
Drama and Young People June 02 2021The tradition of the annual “class play” in Waldorf education has been built up over decades but was not one of the original ideas in the first Waldorf school. Teachers have discovered over time how important and helpful the play is for youngsters; emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Watching a quiet child come into her own like never before through a role in a play, or feeling a class develop gratitude for a slightly marginalized classmate when that child is the prompter who saves everyone from losing lines, can transform the structure and dynamics of a class.
Valentine’s Day! February 13 2019This day, so important to children and our culture, holds the potential for unlocking deep feelings of love one human being holds for another. Teaching kindergarten and children in grades one through five, illuminates how important the young feel it is to let family, teachers, and friends know how much they are loved. These are lessons from the...
Buy Nothing Day 2017! November 24 2017
Join us for our 5th annual BUY NOTHING DAY! Instead of Black Friday, make this relax at home Friday. Stay home with your family, be offline and create homemade potpourri, colorful yarn and twig decorations, or learn a song, (all instructions, lyrics, and ideas included here). Or snuggle in and read a story!
Balance the universe with quiet, loving, relationships at home with the people you cherish most on this (traditionally frantic) Friday.
This Special Time of Year December 07 2016In our western world, there is a building feeling of celebration leading up to the winter solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, and even the Lakota Winter Count. The sun’s turning toward greater and greater strength and light gives this season a feeling of “something significant happening.” Ancient stories indicate that the “windows of heaven” are open for a time in the deep winter and heaven hovers near the earth more closely than at other times of year. Read More...
Happiness is Winning the World Series after 108 Years November 04 2016Just ask the Chicago Cubs what happiness is and they will tell you. Winning the World Series for their team and their community after 108 years of no participation in the Series or championship wins is the “sweetest thing, with no words to describe it,” one elated team member said to a journalist when the last inning was completed and the Series was won.
That word, “happy” or “happiness,” is a mysterious word, overused in the USA. Deviating from the sports arena for a moment — the word happiness is used frequently about schools and teachers and education. Recent surveys done by private schools indicate that many parents....
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day: the Christian Counterpart to Samhain or Hallowe’en October 30 2016Those who grew up going to a parochial school of any kind in the Christian streams of faith know that Hallowe’en is the contraction of Hallow’s Evening. The pagan practices of Samhain or harvest festivals that include the awareness of the thin veil that exists at this time of year between the dead and the living were deeply rooted in ancient cultures. Read More...
Samhain –– Hallowe’en begins in Ireland October 26 2016It figures that the land of Banshees, fairies and Leprechauns would be the starting place for a holiday like Hallowe’en. The Celtic word “Samhain” is actually pronounced “Sow-in.” This word literally translates as “summer’s ending.” After the harvest was gathered and stored, livestock had been sorted for slaughter or breeding, and the earth was perceived to have exhausted herself, this festival of Samhain was one of four high festivals of the Druid religion.
Why Do Girls Never Slay the Dragon? October 06 2016During the Michaelmas season there are many stories of dragons terrorizing kingdoms. The pattern is, for the most part, repeated. A frightening dragon appears breathing fire and destroying whole villages, and a princess is inevitably frightened and weeps helplessly. A knight appears who courageously faces the dragon, slays the dragon, rescues the princess and earns her as a bride for his heroic actions. Read More...
A Deeper Look into the Days of Michaél September 29 2016
The season gives the signs now of the turning of summer to autumn. In the air, before the green of the leaves begin to blush, the air gives an occasional whisper of fresh chill to herald the changes that will come. Even in places in which there is not a dramatic change between seasons, reports of subtle changes as the earth turns and the parade of the seasons rolls onward come from those sensitive to expressions from the Earth.
The Perseid outburst or meteor shower in mid to late August each year marks....
School Begins and Michaelmas Arrives –– Thank Goodness September 02 2016
In some parts of North America, school has already been in session for almost a month. In other regions schools will start after Labor Day. Whatever the beginning, the new school year is always a rush of excitement; new books, new pencils and crayons, new promises about working hard and paying attention, and a few tugs of remorse that the open, free days of summer have come to an end.
The Rose Ceremony in our Waldorf schools holds a picture....
An Advent Story for the Third Sunday in December December 19 2015
On the third Sunday of Advent an angel all white and luminous descends to the earth. He holds in his right hand a sun beam that is marvelous to see. He goes to those in whose hearts the red Angel found true love, and he touches them with his radiant sun beam. Then that radiant light penetrates the hearts of those people and the angel fills them with light and warmth deep inside.
And these people’s eyes are illuminated by the sunlight - it flows down to their hands, their feet, and into their whole body. Even the poorest and the most humble among human beings are transformed and begin to resemble the angels, if they have a drop of pure love in their hearts.
But all the world does not see the angel of white. Only the angels see him, and those whose eyes are illuminated by that light of the angel. Those with that light in their eyes can also see the little baby who is born on Christmas in the manger.
Waldorf Schools and the Darkest Time of the Year December 14 2015In Waldorf schools, December with its disturbing weeks of the deepest darkness begins with the Winter Garden. The children experience darkness and the return of the light as each individual candle gets lit and the light fills the room with increasing brilliance. The picture of the light of each of us in community is a perfect one. Hope and confidence in the light’s return is expressed quite literally.
The Rose Ceremony in Waldorf Schools May 27 2015
In Waldorf schools effort is made to observe significant moments in childhood and to celebrate these with rituals that have meaning for children. The Rose Ceremony in Waldorf schools around the world has a long tradition reaching back to the very first Waldorf school.
The Rose Ceremony happens twice each year: on the first day of school and on the last day of school. The ceremony at the school’s beginning is designed for the oldest students in the school (8th grade or 12th grade) to welcome in the youngest children... READ MORE
Discovering the Waldorf Pentathlon: An Overview May 20 2015
All across North America during the month of May Waldorf schools gather fifth graders for the annual Pentathlon. Three to seven different schools’ fifth grade classes gather at one hosting Waldorf school to compete in this annual celebration of fifth grade grace, skill, and determination, as a crowning salute to the curriculum of the fifth grade in Waldorf schools around the world. We owe gratitude to the “Spacial Dynamics Movement” for developing this rewarding tradition that gives schools a day of social interaction as well as affirmation of the curriculum, specifically Greek history... READ MORE