Throughout the world, in all civilizations, there are celebrations reflecting nature's rhythms, important transitions, and significant moments in the life of the culture. We celebrate these to reconnect, acknowledge and renew ourselves. These celebrations provide a real touchstone with the cycles of the earth fostering the awareness of the seasons, of reaping and sowing, of dark and light, of birth and death, and of nurturing the soul.
In Waldorf schools, the elements of festival—light, food, song and story—permeate the weekly school rhythm; but the cadence of the year receives its form through festivals. Annual festivals of nature and humanity are celebrated in ways that foster wonder, reverence and gratitude, and which nourish the future capacity to respond—to be responsible for and among the human community.
Michaelmas falls midway between the Northern Hemisphere’s summer and winter solstices, during the harvest season. The fruits of nature ripen as the days grow shorter and Nature is beginning to give up its strength and sink into the earth for the rest and renewal. Grasses die, leaves fall, and flowers fade. As the sunlight wanes, can we keep our inner light alive and harvest the fruits and gifts of our own and each other’s self-development?
Waldorf education echoes the essence of Michaelmas. Each and every one of us has a gift to bring to the world. We can learn to recognize and have interest in each other’s gifts, and encourage each other toward our full potential. Overcoming our self-centeredness, discerning true from false, meeting each human being with interest and recognition as a fellow human being: this is what Michaelmas celebrates. It is a festival of what is truly human. Our school will celebrate the festival of Michaelmas with imagination, song, games, and bulb planting, all followed by a potluck.
As the seasons shift and darker, colder days lie ahead, the lantern walk inspires each of us to kindle the light within our hearts so it may shine brightly.
Each November, Waldorf students celebrate kindness, generosity, and compassion at the Martinmas Lantern Walk.
In the second grade the children will hear about the life of fourth century Saint Martin of Tours, who brought warmth and hope to those in need. He was known for his gentleness, love of children, and unassuming generosity. As a young man he passed through city gates and saw a poor beggar, huddled and shivering with cold. He took off his cloak, tore it in two, and covered the beggar with half to warm him. The following night, Martin had a dream in which an angel was wearing the same torn half of the cloak he had given the beggar. This dream confirmed in him his care and devotion for all humankind.
Though this story is reserved until the time is ripe, kindergarten children participate in the celebration of kindness, generosity, and compassion too. They make their own beautiful lantern, and after the sun sets, lanterns in hand, the children wind their way through the woods.The lighting of the lanterns brightens the landscape as they walk.We gather round a bonfire for songs and a kindergarten story about care for each other.