Next Sunday begins the Season of Advent. I love this long season of Light that culminates in the Twelve Holy Nights and Epiphany. My family is currently settling into a new church, and it is exciting that there are many preparations underway for the Season of Advent, culminating in a large Epiphany pageant for the children. This emphasis upon the liturgical year and the resources that this large parish has to organize, plan and lead these festivities has me as excited and giddy as any small child!
Steiner himself acknowledged the different festivals revolving around light for the darkness of the year, but also wrote how different Christmas is from other winter festivals in that:
“The birth of the light will be followed by life in the light. Christians, therefore, should not see in the Christmas festival something that passes. It is not a memorial festival commemorating what has occurred in the past. The Christmas message does not say, “Christ has been born, Christ was born.” It says, “Today Christ is born.” Today is always emphasized. This is significant. The emphasis on today should be understood in the sense in which Christ has spoken, “I am with you always even unto the end of days.” This confronts us anew each year and reveals to us the connection between man and the heavens.” (From Signs and Symbols of the Christian Festival, Lecture One, available here: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/SignSymbols/19041219p01.html)
Advent in the Waldorf Home is something that is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year. This quote is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although I don’t think anyone has been able to show exactly where Steiner said this:
The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Light that lives 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–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”
From this, many Waldorf schools and families celebrate Advent by looking each week at the natural kingdoms on Earth: minerals the first week, plants the second week, animals the third week and humans the fourth week, all waiting for the birth of Christ. This can be a lovely idea, and certainly one that has been fairly well-fleshed out within the Waldorf community with many resources available on the Internet.
Since the first week of Advent is fast approaching, here are some ideas:
** -I highly recommend reading the Advent devotions of your religion if you have a religious path and focusing your Advent activities around the activities of your place of worship. What could be more meaningful for your small child or older children to be immersed in a community that is preparing and waiting together?
**- I highly suggest you take the things your community has to offer, the things your religious community has to offer, and mark them on the calendar and make them a focal point for this quiet time of preparing and waiting. Our calendar right now has marked on it an Advent Spiral, St. Nicholas Day, Wednesday night dinners at our parish complete with the church baking as a community, Advent lessons and caroling at a special liturgy, Santa Lucia Day, and special liturgies up to Christmas Day, through the 12 Holy Nights and Epiphany.
There are several ways to count down to Christmas or all the way to Epiphany:
- Here is an idea for a spiral that one could make to include 24 days or 37 (to Epiphany)http://maymomvt.blogspot.com/2008/11/spiraling-in.html:
- Here is an idea for an Advent Stick: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5rahJXVt_oY/SRK9-nYI2eI/AAAAAAAAAAk/OPk-bSq3g9M/s1600-h/advent+stick.jpg
- You could also just order an Advent Calendar from Art Makes Sense: http://art-makes-sense.com/
- Or you could make one following the instructions in “All Year Round” or using these on-line directions: http://www.ourbigearth.com/2009/11/28/seeking-the-light-and-the-warmth-with-advent/
This is a good week to focus on the mineral kingdom preparing for the birth of the Christ Child. There is a song I like in the Winter Wynstones book where the lyrics say (my emphasis on the one line):
Hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye, holy night,
angels have brought the Child of Light:
All mankind shall gently bear Him;
all the beasts shall nestle near Him,
all the flowers shall adore Him,
all the stones shall kneel before Him,
all the world shall worship Him,
cherubim and seraphim.
Wet felting stones, making star shaped candles, pulling out your crystals, geodes, and other nature finds for your table are all appropriate here. Here was a post I wrote last year about how we celebrated the first week of Advent: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/29/the-first-week-of-advent/
Here is an idea for a Nature Table display: http://waldorfwithoutwalls.com/articles/advent
Possible stories for this week include The Star Money from the Brothers Grimm,(and if you have the book “Rose Windows”, there is a lovely idea for a window transparency in there); other possible stories include the ones from “The Light In the Lantern: Stories for Advent” from Wynstones Press; another possibility would be to read “Saint Nicholas” by Jakob Streit since St. Nicholas Day is on December 6th. If you would like more information regarding St. Nicholas, please see this back post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/26/saint-nicholas-day-in-the-waldorf-home/
I have been wholly unsatisfied with the Advent Circles I have been finding in books. There is something about this time of year that seems difficult to really place into a circle kind of format, at least in my opinion.
Here are some resources though because even though these things didn’t strike me, perhaps they will strike you!
Reflections on an Advent Circle from the Waldorf Kindergarten: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3213.pdf
Hope that helps plan out your first week of Advent. I would love to hear your ideas, circle time ideas, or anything else that strikes you this first week of Advent.
Many blessings to you!