WHY ARE FESTIVALS IMPORTANT?
Festivals are very important in Steiner Waldorf schools, the celebration of festivals acknowledges the cycle of the year and lies at the heart of our school. Children experience festivals not only as special days, but as a season for which there is time for preparation and a time for letting go.
Because young children live so fully in the world that surrounds them, festivals primarily focus on nature's changing processes.
The festivals that a Steiner school celebrates typically follow the cultural heritage of the local community of the school. Therefore, many of our festivals follow the Christian and Pagan tradition of Irish heritage and folklore. However, these festivals are celebrated through story and fables and the religious side of the festival is never the focus. We are a multi-denominational setting and families from all religious or non-religious backgrounds are welcome.
There will be opportunities to celebrate festivals within the familiarity of the class. The class teachers introduce the children to poems, songs, stories, crafts etc. appropriate to the season. The children prepare for the festivals by making crafts and learning new songs.
Parents/guardians are always involved in the festival celebrations, offering a chance to meet and share. We strongly recommend that at least one parent attend each festival celebration. However, if this is not possible it is important that you inform the teacher in advance so that they can more carefully attend to the child’s emotional needs on the day.
Michaelmas is celebrated in Waldorf schools as the “festival of strong will”. In the autumn, at harvest season, there is the transition from the outer warmth of summer to the coolness of winter. We turn inwards, towards ourselves and towards our community for inner warmth. The meaning behind this celebration is about finding the confidence and courage to look to the spiritual world for strength, and renew the impulse to live our lives to the best of our abilities. In the tradition, Michael represents the unconquered hero, fighting against the dragon and the power of darkness. He is a model for valor and courage. The primary idea behind the festival of Michaelmas is to get children to face their own challenges – their dragons! This festival is used to teach children the importance of using courage to prepare for the colder, darker, winter months.
Martinmas is celebrated with a traditional lantern walk in the spirit of St Martin whom represents hope and compassion. The light from the lantern signifies the carrying on of the light that was started with the season of Michaelmas (harvest festival) and which gets brighter as we approach the darker days of winter, representing the strengthening of our inner light while nature sleeps. The essence of this festival is to acknowledge the light that shines from each of us.This light needs to be protected, just as the lights inside our lanterns.
Winter Solstice Festival
Advent is the period of preparation for Christmas, characterised by a sense of anticipation. Through stories, poems and songs the teachers guide the children to experience a settling down, a feeling of being blanketed for a winter nap. The fallen leaves, the animals in hibernation, the shorter daylight hours, which bring us inside much earlier than at other times of the year, all contribute to this experience. Advent balances the darkness and sleepiness with expectation and anticipation. It is a time of moving through the darkness toward the light when finally the days begin to grow longer. Advent is a four week festival, the four weeks leading up to Christmas and Winter Solstice. It has a religious meaning but it can equally be celebrated as a
special occasion to bring warmth and light to Winter days. It is a lovely event to watch - in a darkened room, a spiral path is laid out in greenery with a beautifully decorated table in its centre. A candle is placed on the table and each child carries their own candle along the spiral path, lights it from the main flame and sets it down within the spiral on their golden star and gradually the room fills with light.
May Day Festival
May Day is celebrated to welcome the beautiful summer season and the longer days. Known as Bealtaine in the Celtic tradition and celebrated by the Romans, May Day is a popular and ancient tradition of celebrating the arrival of summer. We greet the new warm season by wearing garlands and flower crowns. It is tradition to dance around the Maypole while singing joyful summer songs. The Maypole bears colorful ribbons and symbolises the tree of life and growth of summer vegetation. The children make streamers and paper flowers to add to their garlands.
Parents/guardians are invited to bring in greenery for the garlands and to decorate the classrooms and school.