Festivals & Celebrations
Festivals are a vital part of Waldorf Education. They provide nourishment to the individual and bring the community together in meaningful ways. The festival is an anniversary that brings to a community the richness of story and song, light and food and celebrates our shared humanity. Expressing our ageless struggle from darkness toward light, each festival is a mood, an attitude, an experience; it is a social expression that reflects and celebrates an entire season.
Many festivals are celebrated community-wide. Others may be celebrated within the curriculum presented in the grades. Additional assemblies and community gatherings add to the richness of the year.
School Day Festivals and Special Events in the grades.
(* indicates parents welcome)
*First Day Assembly & Rose Ceremony
At an assembly on the first day of school, the first grade teacher welcomes the first grade class, tells a story and announces the name of each student in the class. The eighth graders hand each first grader a rose that they put into a vase symbolizing the individuality and community that lives in the class. The teacher for each grade follows with a preview of the work for the year.
The first festival during the school year is Michaelmas, celebrated on Sept. 29 or soon thereafter. In the Early Childhood Center, the primary emphasis is on the harvest celebration, while the older grades incorporate the feast day of St. Michael. In the autumn season, the archangel Michael gives his aid to the human souls who are endeavoring to find the inwardness of heart appropriate to the time. He faces the dragon, i.e., the destructive forces within us, which wish to lead us away from goodness. St. Michael endows our hearts with courage and promotes the flame of enthusiasm.
In the Early Childhood Center, children make swords to ride with St. Michael to overcome dragons and giants. The harvest theme is also present through activities such as grinding grain, planting bulbs, dyeing wool, and making harvest soup. In the grades, students sing songs and recite poems about harvest time. Older children form a pageant depicting the legend of St. Michael. The rest of the day is celebrated with games.
Halloween, which originated over a thousand years ago, is a fall festival originally celebrated to mark the ending of one year and the beginning of another. It was said that on the eve of the New Year, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest. During Christian times, the date became known as All Hallows’ Eve, and remained a time to pray for the dead and honor the saints. Over the years, Halloween customs became interwoven. Halloween is not a school festival day and is celebrated at the discretion of each class teacher.
The Festival of Lanterns, celebrated on Nov. 11th, is the time of year when we purposefully withdraw into ourselves as we prepare for less daylight. It is an introspective, meditative time. In European countries, when days become shorter, the children make lanterns. During Martinmas, the inner light brightens the darkness.
At school, the celebration may include children walking together with handmade lanterns. The lanterns are often decorated with moons and stars, motifs that also appear in the songs of the day. They suggest heavenly forces that want to live in the souls of human beings on earth.
This assembly is the culmination of a food drive that has taken place in each classroom. There is a lively story of appreciation, the children participate in celebration through song and verse, and the food is donated to a soup kitchen or food pantry.
Advent is a festival of the present and the future. It starts quietly with a season of preparation, waiting, and listening for what is to come. There are four weeks of Advent, which are celebrated by lighting a candle on each of the four Sundays. The Advent festival at school involves the children in K-3 walking through the Advent Garden as a way of presenting a visual picture of the inner journey the soul makes at this time of year. As each child spirals inward along the advent wreath towards the central flame, so must each of us turn within if we are to find the source of our inner light.
During the first week, the mineral kingdom is the focus of our gratitude. In the classroom, children bring forward small shells, crystals, and minerals to place around the Advent wreath and to light the first candle. The second week is the celebration of the plant kingdom, the realm of life and growth. Children bring bits of bark, plants, nuts, and dried flowers and light the second candle. The third candle is lit with sympathy and recognition for the animal kingdom as a way of acknowledging the more unconscious forces of nature. Children offer small animals made of stone, wood, clay, or wax. Finally, on the fourth Sunday, the last candle is lit in recognition of the human spirit.
Detroit Waldorf School will be turned into a Winter Wonderland to celebrate the magic and enchantment of the holiday season, showcasing all of the beautiful aspects of a Waldorf Education.
St. Nicholas Day
Near the beginning of Advent comes the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6. At school, St. Nicholas and Rupert visit the children and bring a small treat. His visit gives the children a chance to reflect on their past year’s behavior and to make resolves for the coming year.
St. Lucia Day
Light is the image for the feast of St. Lucia on Dec. 13. In many northern European countries, a girl wearing a crown of lighted candles represents Lucia. She symbolizes a young girl who was killed by Romans fifteen hundred years ago for refusing to give up her religion. There is also a legend that during a time of great hunger in Sweden, she miraculously appeared, her head surrounded by a halo of light, and provided food for the country. The second grade visits each class and brings a song and a treat for the teacher and office staff.
The Jewish festival of light commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in 165 B.C. and the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. The eight days of Chanukah are in memory of the eight days that a holy lamp stayed lit even though it only held enough oil for one day. In school, the children may celebrate by lighting the menorah, making potato pancakes, and playing a special game with a spinning top called a dreidel.
*Christmas / Epiphany
The Christmas festival signifies the spiritual birth that takes place as manifested in the birth of Jesus. The days around the winter solstice have also been celebrated in past centuries as the victory of light over darkness, known also as Epiphany. Each year, faculty and friends present traditional plays for the season. Performances are held during the day for the students and in the evening for the greater community.
Easter / Passover
The Easter festival is one of death, rebirth, and the return of spring; it is a sign of hope and courage in a chaotic world.
Passover is the Jewish celebration of miracles and liberation, the story of leaving Egypt as slaves and entering Israel as free people. The Seder is the traditional meal eaten on the first and second nights of Passover. The Seder plate includes six special foods that symbolize the Jewish efforts towards liberation, the pain of slavery, and the anticipation of a new life. In school, the upper grades might celebrate with a traditional Seder meal while the younger children may hear the story of Passover and become acquainted with the foods on a Seder plate.
A chance for the students and staff to thank parents for their many contributions to our school, followed by each grade dancing around the Maypole.
Having honed their pentathlon skills, the 5th grade travels to join other Waldorf schools’ 5th grades to share their accomplishments.