Celebrating the Season of Light at Berkshire Waldorf School
As we approach the winter solstice (the shortest day and longest night of the year) on December 21, Berkshire Waldorf School—along with Waldorf schools all over the world—enters the Season of Light, a season that celebrates the spirit of peace, warmth, light and joyful anticipation, bringing light and warmth into the darkness both physically, with candles, holiday lights and observance of the moon, as well as taking comfort in the light of family, friends, food and traditions of giving.
Berkshire Waldorf School celebrates these qualities through a number of rich, reverent celebrations and festivals.
Advent in Four Weeks
The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” In the Christian tradition, it refers to the four Sundays before Christmas and preparation for the birth of the Christ child. However, this seasonal observance has been kept by people around the world from many traditions and beliefs; as the earth falls quiet under winter snows, we prepare for the return of the sun and the lengthening of days with reflections on the year that is passing and anticipation for the year to come.
In Waldorf schools, children from all backgrounds participate in the month-long observance of the rebirth of the light through songs, stories and activities, starting with the Spiral of Light, bringing a mood of reverence to what can be a busy season. In our school, grades students gather on Monday mornings for special songs, stories and verses, marked each week by the lighting of one more candle in the Advent wreath to balance the increasing darkness outside. Each week of “Waldorf Advent” honors one of the kingdoms of nature—the minerals, plants, animals and human beings—and this theme is brought into classroom activities and decorations as well. As the weeks progress, the Waldorf Advent wreath is decorated with crystals and shells, flowers, small animals (some hand sculpted out of beeswax) and people.
Waldorf Verse for Advent
The first light of Advent is the light of stones.
The light that shines in crystals, seashells and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants.
Plants that reach up to the sun, and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.
It shines in the greatest, it shines in the least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and understand.
Thanks to a generous gift from the BWS Parent Association of a menorah, a kinara and diya lamps, during these weekly grade school assemblies, we will also honor festivals of light including the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, lighting eight candles in remembrance of the re-dedication of the temple, and the miracle of lamps that burned for eight days with oil enough for only one. We’ll light lamps for the Hindu celebration of Diwali, just past, during which every house is ablaze with lights to rejoice in the victory of good over evil. For Kwanzaa, a celebration that serves as a reminder of family, community and collective progress, we will light a Kinara to represent these principles. Early childhood students will celebrate these festivals in their classrooms.
Look for these lights displayed in the grade school lobby during December. All school families are invited to gather in the auditorium on Friday, December 20 at 11am, where our month of festivities will culminate in a holiday assembly to celebrate the Season of Light as a community.
More about other festive days on the BWS calendar during the Season of Light:
December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day The story of the wise and generous saint captivates the imagination of our youngest students, and brings the warmth of caring and giving to this season of celebration. Early Childhood children clean and polish their indoor shoes the day before, and leave them out for treats that Saint Nicholas brings. At our school golden walnuts and clementines are favorites.
St. Nicholas will visit children in the grade school this year. Many of the children have heard the story of St. Nicholas in their classrooms, but his visit is a special surprise for them. St. Nicholas represents one’s “higher self” to the children, as he embodies goodness, understanding and wisdom. St. Nicholas carries a golden book into which deeds both good and bad are recorded, and he reads a message to each class.
December 8 and 9, The Spiral of Light Kindergarten, first and second grade classes participate in the Spiral of Light, a centering and soul satisfying experience for children. Each child walks a spiral path made of evergreen boughs strewn with minerals and crystals. As they reach the center, children light their “apple candle” and place it on the path to light the way for others.
December 11 and 12, the PA will serve latkes to grade 1-8. Hanukkah, observed for eight days near the time of the winter solstice, celebrates the Maccabees’ successful rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. According to the Talmud, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. To remember this miracle, the Jewish people eat oily foods like latkes during Hanukkah. We like ours with applesauce!
December 13, Santa Lucia Day We follow in the tradition of a day widely celebrated in Sweden on the feast day of the “Queen of Light,” who brought food to the hungry during a time of famine. In our school, second grade students perform this seasonal role, dressing in white, with candlelight “crowns,” and processing through the entire school (including the high school), to bring each class freshly baked saffron buns and a song to light the darkness.
December 19, 3:30 and 7:00 pm, Shepherd’s Play The Christmas image is one of a humble birth surrounded by love. In the Christian tradition, Christ’s birth is celebrated just after the winter solstice as the light of earth is returning. This humorous and joyful “Oberufer” Christmas story has been played for decades at Waldorf schools throughout the world, and is performed at BWS by faculty as a gift to students, families and the community,
We hope this helps you understand all we do to celebrate the Season of Light at Berkshire Waldorf School. In the Berkshires, we are so lucky to have the beautiful mountains and snow all around to remind us of the miracle and forces of nature. BWS faculty and staff wish your family a beautiful holiday season and memories that will bring renewed warmth and light throughout the years.