Bringing Advent Home with Local Waldorf Families
Many Waldorf families are preparing for this season of turning in and resting by welcoming the tradition of Advent. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th and ends four Sundays later. This annual festival celebrates the coming of Winter’s darkness, and inspires families to celebrate light.
“In all of us stirs a deepening inwardness as we look toward and beyond the midnight of the year when longer days will come with their promise of light, warmth, and life renewed.” (Signe Schaefer)
On the first Sunday of Advent, our family gathers around our hand-hewn, wooden, angel candelabra to light the first candle of the season. Others may light a candle on an advent wreath or wooden candle holder with four candles. The second week, we light the first candle again, and then add a second candle. Each week the progression grows until all four candles are lit.
The four candles represent many four-fold wonders, such as the four seasons of the year, or the four virtues of Peace, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Rudolf Steiner connected Advent with the four animal kingdoms in this lovely poem:
“The first light of Advent is the light of stones.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants.
Roots, stem, leaf, flower and fruit by whom we live and grow.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.
Animals of farm, field, forest, air and sea.
All await the birth in greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand.”
Each week we read one stanza of this poem after lighting our candles. When we finish with our small evening ceremony, we blow out the candles in reverse order from how they were lit.
Children in the Waldorf schools find a multitude of ways to celebrate and capture light during this season of darker days. My son worked with his teacher to make a paper lantern, which he’ll receive at the end of his advent spiral ceremony tonight. These glowing globes hang from the end of simple sticks, and take the shape of soft, fallen stars as the children march silently through the black of night.
Gathering Table Themes
Our family creates a physical space to feature our advent candle holder and honor the season. Our nature table (or gathering table) will grow with weekly additions of crystals, shells, pine bows, and small felted animals.
Evergreens are an important symbol of thriving life in Winter’s darkness. The green sheds it’s own light in Winter’s grey and bare branched landscapes. Some families make round advent wreaths, which can symbolize the unending cycle of the year.
Calendars and Counting
The term “advent” – Latin for “to come” – signifies the coming of the end of one season and a start of another. Waldorf-inspired families will often hang Advent Calendars, which help us to count and savor each day’s period of light. Each day the sunlight wanes with the coming Winter Solstice - the darkest day of the year.
The children especially love to run to the calendar each morning to open a pocket, a door, or move along a little marker. Our kindergarten teacher suggests singing this lovely little verse for those that hang advent calendars with windows:
“As we come nearer to the light,
We open up a window bright.”
Songs of the Season
Dozens of wonderful, old songs celebrate the advent season. Grandma Mary Bowen taught me this lively song, “People Look East” as we explored the season in our Nurturing Arts class:
“People look East, the time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house as fair as you are able.
Trim the Hearth and set the table.
People look East and sing today
Love the Guest is on the way.”
I like to open my 1960′s “Take Joy” Tasha Tudor’s Christmas book when our family is in the mood for a night spent by the fire. Scott plays his guitar, Bryles joins in with an instrument of his choice (Reindeer bells anyone?), and I humbly sing the words of songs I’ve been singing since my own childhood holidays.
Waldorf schools around the world are preparing Advent Gardens with lovely evergreen spirals. Young, reverent children are guided in walking around the spiral, lighting a candle, and then moving back out of the spiral again. This ritual engages the young ones in physically experiencing Advent’s cycle of moving towards the shortest day of the year, and then away from it with each day after growing longer and longer. Nicole Spring of Frontier Dreams shares an image from her Waldorf School’s Advent Spiral here:
To learn more about Advent and to take part in a Community Advent spiral, join in Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm’s annual event scheduled for Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
If you’d like to learn how the Advent Spiral comes to life at Summerfield, please read this companion story: “Come to the Center of the Season’s Spiral with the Making of an Advent Garden at Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm.”
Advent Candle Holders:
$35.00 Wooley Wood Works
Felted Nativity Scenes (for gathering tables):
Monica Ashley, Fiber Arts Instructor, can help you create your own felted nativity scene as pictured in this post.
Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm’s Bookstore (in the Main Office)
(Click here for a lovely array of advent calendar styles.)
Advent Songs & Stories:
“Advent becomes about getting ready – crafting, baking, making things with our hands, firelight and candlelight.” (via the Parenting Passage Way “Part II of Advent in the Waldorf Home“)
Nurturing Arts Workshops with Mary Bowen
“Take Joy” Tasha Tudor’s Christmas book
Paper Lantern How-To
May we take this time to offer gratitude for the waning light in the sky, and to strengthen our inner light that can shine most brightly in times of outward darkness.