Celebrating Festivals With the Young ChildDec 14, 2021
Celebrating festivals in a Waldorf School is one of the many things that makes Waldorf Education different that other educational pedagogies. You might walk into a Waldorf School and see eight graders taming dragons and kindergartners baking dragon bread in preparation for Michaelmas. You might see second graders singing a Santa Lucia song while they hand out yellow saffron buns. You might attend a silent and reverent festival such as a Lantern Walk for Martinmas or the Advent Spiral just prior to the Winter Solstice. Or maybe you will see a number of grades dancing around a May pole in early spring. In any of these cases you will see beauty, preparation, and community coming together to mark turning points of the year.
There are many festivals throughout the year were brought into Waldorf education from where it sprang out of, European culture and religious celebrations. However as Waldorf Education has expanded around the globe and the Waldorf homeschooling moment as also expanded we are seeing the festivals of the year change to be more inclusive of other cultures and religions. The festivals of the year that are celebrated at a school should allow each child and family to feel welcome and accepted. The celebrations and festivals might also reflect certain demographics such as the region the school is located in or the cultures and faiths that are more prominent.
In the early childhood here at Seasons of Seven we have celebrated many festivals within our curriculum already just during our first semester of the year. In the Kindergarten and Content Toddlers & Joyful Parents classes I have brought Michaelmas/Harvest, the Autumn Equinox, Halloween/All Souls, Martinmas, Saint Nicholas, Hanukkah, and most recently Santa Lucia and Advent to the early childhood families. When I work with the early childhood families around these festivals I always say that when we are bringing these festivals into our homeschool life and into our home to our own young children they should have meaning to us, which makes them different then experiencing them at a brick-and-mortar school. The festival’s and traditions that are brought into our home is more intentional and should have some meaning as part of our family culture. This could mean bringing a festival that is important to our own faith and culture but also the desire to bring a festival that we are unfamiliar with as a way to learn more about the world around us that we are a part of. All festivals will have preparation like the songs, stories, recipes ect. however there is also the preparation of our own inner work as adults on why we are bringing something in to our family culture, and to our young child, and how we can bring it in a living way.
I feel we have the best of both worlds here at Seasons of Seven. We have the opportunity to work with our class teachers and gain from their experience how to bring these festivals into our homes and homeschool life but also, within our community, we have festival celebrations where we come together as a global community to celebrate together! If you need inspiration for December Festivals just look at the wonderful work posted on our Advent Calendar of Celebrations: https://www.seasonsofseven.com/december-2021
So why are festivals so important for the young child? Well for many reasons! One reason is that children are typically more connected to both the spiritual would as well as the earthly seasonal world than we are as adults. Festivals will include one or both of these aspects and allow the child to experience but not be ‘taught’ about the world around them. They learn the natural rhythm of the year, that at the beginning of the new school year we must ‘conquer our dragons’ and prepare for harvest, that shortly after we just bring our own inner light to the shortening of days and the darkness of winter, that we must prepare and slow down in Advent time, that we will experience new life an new beginnings in the spring and rejoice and see the world around us blossom in the summer. They learn this yearly rhythm but also they experience the scents and tastes of certain festival foods, they sing and hear the songs and stories, the create crafts or knead dough with their hands, they experience the slow winter Advent Spiral walk and the skip dancing around the May Pole in the spring with movement. Festivals also will expose the young child to different cultures and religious celebrations expanding their knowledge of the world and their own community around them. All of these things will support both their physical and spiritual development, their foundational senses in early childhood and help them to discover their place in the community and culture around them. As an added benefit celebrating festivals within your family or community will also strengthen those connections and help to cultivate your family culture.
I couldn’t imagine experiencing a year without a deep festival life. It has helped me to slow down the season I am in and look forward and prepare for the next season with anticipation and joy. Festivals have helped me to deepen ties with my community, my spiritual life, and my family culture. I look fondly on the traditions and celebrations of my childhood and use those as a jumping off point to create a festival life for my own four young children as they grow. Festivals are a gift we can give our young children!
I challenge you to bring festivals in an inner way to your young child at home and watch how the gift of those festivals blossom as they grow and look back upon their childhood memories.
Tiffany M. Manoukian
Grade One, Kindergarten and Content Toddlers & Joyful Parents Class Teacher
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