Celebrations of Spring in the Waldorf Home

“Children relate to the world around them primarily through what is seen and done.  It is only later that they easily grasp abstract ideas.  So in preparing festivals for children we give priority to the visual presentation and to the accompanying activity.  We have found it best to avoid completely the temptation to explain in words anything to do with the meaning or background to a festival.  It could be many years later that illuminating connections in thought are discovered by the child- but this will be a personal discovery and therefore all the more precious and inspiring.”

-All Year Round, page 42.

Here are some ideas for celebrating Spring within your Waldorf Home! (I did not include Passover and hope to find you a blog to link to with Passover ideas – Loveyland, where are you??)

Karneval/Mardi Gras:  Probably not a true Waldorf tradition celebrated within the Waldorf school, but Karneval is a season of fun in many regions of Germany !  You could consider celebrating at home with cutting out chains of colorful paper dolls and hanging them up, celebrating with  a Karneval party where the children dress up (not in scary costume, but colorful costume!) and there is dancing and singing and food.  Some regions of Germany celebrate with a special kind of  jelly-filled donut for Karneval.

The season of Karneval typically culminates in Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.  Wikipedia has a lovely entry on all the different foods people in different countries eat on this day before Lent.  See this link for further details:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrove_Tuesday   In my region of the United states, this night is known to many in the US as “pancake dinner” night for “Fat Tuesday.”

There are many pancake rhymes out there, here is one I remember that I believe is Mother Goose:

Mix a pancake

Stir a pancake

Pop it in a pan

Fry a pancake

Toss a pancake

Catch it if you can

You could have a pancake tossing race as I am told they do in England!

In some Protestant traditions, families make pretzels on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Here is a recipe I found:  http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=2601.    I also found this link regarding pretzels and their role in Lent from a Catholic perspective:  http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0535.html 

Lent: 

According to the book, “Celebrating Irish Festivals” regarding Lent:  “In older times people were expected to abstain from all animal fats during Lent.  This meant no eggs, butter, milk or meat, so the people ate simple meals like porridge, with black tea for breakfast; and potatoes, herring and seaweed for dinner………..In the 19th century the custom changed so that only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday were strictly observed fasts.  There was a prohibition on dancing and singing during Lent.  Visiting friends was frowned upon, as were card games; and still today many people decide not to visit the pub during this period……Nowadays, many people choose to give something up for Lent.  This can be a habit, or something like chocolate or sweets.  You could also choose to take up some spiritual discipline during this time.”

I personally like to do more intensive inner work during the 12 days of Christmas and during Lent.  One thing that I have been using for my own adult inner work during this season of Lent is the contemplation of my role  in Social Justice.  I have been using these devotions as found here:  http://images.rca.org/docs/discipleship/LentenDevotional.pdf  Food for thought. 

Maybe you would like to join the Anthroposophical Society during this time to further your foundation for Waldorf homeschooling.  Maybe you will intensify your yoga practice or prayer or meditation life.  I am sure you  will find the thing that speaks the most strongly to you.

Other thoughts for during Lent include Spring Cleaning, and also cleansing your body with such herbs as dandelion and nettle.   There are many wonderful recipes for this in many of the festival books.

The book “All Year Round” has this to add regarding the celebration of Lent with small children:

In what ways can we develop an appropriate Lenten mood for a younger child?  We could sit together for a few minutes each morning, listening in silence as the birdsong  gains strength from the ebb of night.  We could take time to watch for the moon as it unfolds its rhythmic process between darkness and light.  There are many small, quiet ways in which the adult can offer certain pictures.  We do not mean art reproductions of the Crucifixion, which children can find disturbing, but pictures taken “out of the book of Nature”, or presentations of a symbolic quality.    For example, if an unlit candle stands on the dining room table each day instead of flowers, this can make a very deep impression…….”

St. Patrick’s Day:

The book “Celebrating Irish Festivals” discusses the life of St. Patrick and provides a story about Finn MacCool and St. Patrick, which would probably be suitable for eight-year-olds and up. 

Some children wake up to find a St. Patrick on their Nature Table.  Many families celebrate this day by having green food (yes, the dye, the horror!), making shamrock rolls, hunting for shamrocks outside, sewing little green felt shamrocks to pin to a shirt.  Celtic music is great fun as well.  Some mothers sew a small little green shirt and pants and leave them somewhere for the children to find in the morning, or have a scavenger-type hunt for gold.   I have known parents who even went so far to use green food coloring in the toilets even, LOL!

I don’t know how “Waldorf-y” any of this is, but it sure is fun!

Spring Equinox:  A great time to change the scene on your Nature Table!

Some families set up an egg tree especially for the Equinox and some families do one tree for the Equinox and one for Easter.  Some families wet felt flowers and when they are dry, tack them to their shirts with a safety pin.  Some families use the Equinox to leave out special gifts for the birds to build nests with or make birdhouses or Mason bee houses.  Wet-on-wet watercolor painting on paper cut out in the shapes of chicks or rabbits also comes to mind, as does those simple pipe cleaner and coffee filter butterflies.

 Easter

Palm SundayAll Year Round recommends making a cockerel to hang over the breakfast table for the children to wake up to and includes directions.

There is also a thought that if you have been using an unlit candle on your table, then you start lighting it on Palm Sunday.

This can also be a day to sow grass seed or wheat grass or start a Lenten Garden in a dish.

For the time between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, you could make an Easter Pole as a family.  The pole usually is made from a branch that you can bend into a hoop at the top, decorate with streamers and a bread rooster.   Some families also do an Easter tree and decorate it with blown and dyed Easter eggs. Even a small child of age 4 or 5 may be able to take a large-eyed needle to sew some yellow felt together to make Easter chicks for the Easter Tree.

Maundy Thursday may be a day of a simple meal.  In much of Europe, this is a day to eat green food such as herbs and salad.

Good Friday is ideally the day to make Hot Cross Buns and also to dye Easter eggs if you have not done that before this day.  There is a lovely book regarding Easter Crafts, titled simply “The Easter Craft Book” by Thomas and Petra Berger that may give you other ideas.

Some families also plant things on Good Friday, and seeds are nice gifts in the Easter baskets.

Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday:  A day of waiting, stillness, anticipation.  Some families make a bread ring for Easter morning that has “pockets’ in it, and on Easter morning the children wake up to dyed eggs being in the pockets.

All Year Round” has a simple explanation about the Easter bunny versus the Easter Hare and remarks, “May we make a plea for the reinstatement of the Easter Hare?  He is fast becoming an endangered species, owing to the increasing popularity of the “Easter Bunny.”  The rabbit, with its established communal life and reputation for timidity, presents a very different picture from that of the hare.  The hare is a loner, creating the most transient of abodes.  He is said to be a bold and courageous creature, and his upright stance is characteristic.  His long ears suggest a wide and intelligent interest in the world, and in legend and folklore he is invested with the virtue of self-sacrifice.”

If you are searching for Easter stories, Suzanne Down’s “Spring Tales” has a story about the Hare, the book “Festivals, Families and Food” has two separate tales about the Easter Hare .

As far as Easter baskets go, I know many Waldorf families who put small trinkets in the basket as opposed to candy.  Homemade items and toys are always especially wonderful.

Earth Day:  I don’t know if this is celebrated in Waldorf schools, but it may be fun to celebrate our love for the Earth and the home we share by marking the day in some way.  I have looked at a number of links on the Internet about Earth Day and small children and have not found any of them to be especially appropriate for the under-nine child from a Waldorf perspective.

Waldorf approaches the challenges we are facing in the environment from a perspective and realization that the young child is ONE with the environment; with all the trees, the animals, the birds, and the plants. As Waldorf educators, we work hard to foster reverence and wonder for the great outdoors.

So, my suggestion would be to take part in hiking that day, planting a tree, or if you have seven, eight and nine year-olds, possibly participate in helping to clean up a trail, park or river –IF you can keep the “gloom and doom” out of it and just simply say, “We are helping to keep Mother Earth neat and clean.” No guilt about what the human race is doing wrong yet! 

Remember, holidays and festivals the Waldorf way are about DOING, not the words or the explanations.  DOING.

Yours till next time,

Carrie

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5 thoughts on “Celebrations of Spring in the Waldorf Home

  1. I enjoyed seeing the pretzel link – I hadn’t seen one with such a thorough explanation before! We made pretzels last week and I caught the oven on fire =0

    I read in another post here about getting familiar with the saints and that they are “other-worldly” people, and I was curious about what that means. We do a lot with the saints as we are Catholic… some of the stories have mystical elements to them – is that what is meant by “other-worldly?” For us, we talk about their stories and how they once lived on earth and are now in heaven. Some of the stories of the martyrs are pretty gruesome though… we were given a children’s book about saints and it tells of some being beheaded, burned to death, etc. I am guessing that a Waldorf perspective would be to hold off on those stories and focus on ones with happier elements?

    • Waldorf education in the second grade for the eight year old or almost eight year old looks at fostering the development of the child’s soul by telling stories of the duality of man. This is done through the use of “trickster tales” from many cultures (Anansi the Spider from West Africa, animal tales, Bre’r Rabbit, Native American trickster tales) justaposed with the lives and mystical qualities of Saints (not so much the martyrdom aspect) of many Saints – some are Catholic Saints, some are Hindu, some are kind of “folk heroes” of China and other countries. Donna Simmons writes in her book, “Saints and Heroes,” : “These people were all strongly connected to the spiritual worlds, something the child of this age can still, unconsciously, relate to. These are stories to uplift and inspire, but never to moralize. And as the child loses this connection she will begin to discover the strength of the Divine Spark thiat lives in her own being. Thus stories about worthy qualities such as serenity (Genevieve) or love (the Baal Shem Tov) are so important to children of this age. This is why 8 year olds seek heroes – and if we don’t provide them with characters worthy of emulation, then other less savory figures will take their place!”
      In other words, some things children learn through their religious instruction, but in Waldorf there is place for many stories from many religious faiths designed within the curriculum to speak to the child of that age. The Saints are not taught within a religious traditon, but as the last vestiges of a pre-birth connection to a spiritual world. In Waldorf, the child is always seen as a spiritual being on a spriritual journey.
      Hope that helps!

  2. Pingback: Celebrating Waldorf-Style « This Waldorf Life

  3. Pingback: Easter in The Waldorf Home « The Parenting Passageway

  4. This is a great list Carrie! We celebrate spring equinox by having a birthday party for Spring! We make cupcakes and have a nice picnic. This was my four-year-old’s idea last year and she called to invite her grandparents to the celebration, and this year she remembers and is planning on it again so it’s an official family tradition now! :)

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