Lent In The Waldorf Home

I love this quote from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide” as edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers:

“As Steiner writes in “Spiritual Bells of Easter, I”:

Festivals are meant to link the human soul with all that lives and weaves in the great universe.  We feel our souls expanding in a new way during these days at the beginning of spring…It is at this time of year, the time of Passover and Easter, that human souls can find that there lives…in the innermost core of their being, a fount of eternal, divine existence.

If we can begin to penetrate the cosmic significance of the mystery of this season, the rebirth of nature, the freeing of the Israelites, and the death and resurrection of Christ, we begin to understand that Easter is as A.P. Shepherd writes.”…the Festival of the spiritual future of humanity, the Festival of Hope and the Festival of Warning.”

Shrove Tuesday was this week.  This day grew from the practice of obtaining absolution –to be “shriven” or “shrove” before the forty-day fasting of Lent.  Years ago, this was a very strict dietary fast and meat and eggs and milk were used up before Lent started.  Pancake-making and tossing was often tradition on this special day, and I am sure many of you are familiar with the custom of Carnival (Karneval in Germany) leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. 

Ash Wednesday began with the practice of wearing a sackcloth for Lent and covering one’s head with ashes. 

“All Year Round” has this to say:”Lent has been kept as a time of penance, of strict self-denial, and for contemplating the sufferings and temptations of Jesus Christ as he fasted forty days in the wilderness.  Nowadays, the imposed strictness of Lent has been largely relaxed, and more emphasis placed on using the time to strengthen the inner life through spiritual education or appropriate self-discipline.  The long fasts of Lent and Advent were once used to make pilgrimages or “progresses” to holy places.  The word “progress implies not only the outer journey, but also the inner journey of the pilgrim – his progress in self-development.”

So, without further ado, here are some traditional ways to celebrate Lent:

  • Fasting and eating cleansing foods such as dandelion, nettles, leeks, chevril.  In anthroposophic terms, we talk about doing this as an example for children for this season.
  • Spring Cleaning!
  • Spending time away from outer stimulation and more time with an inward focus.
  • For a young child, “All Year Round” recommends spending time with your child each day doing one small thing to develop a Lenten mood.  This could include sitting together and listening to the birds sing in the morning in silence, taking time to look for the moon each night.
  • Decor:   a small unlit candle, bare twigs on the Nature Table, a bowl of dry earth or ashes on the Nature Table (you could plant seeds there on Palm Sunday so something grows during Holy Week).
  • Celebrate “Mothering Sunday” –the fourth Sunday in Lent was traditionally  when young people working away from home were given the day off to visit their mothers.  Traditional gifts include Sinnel Cake (like a fruit cake) and violets. 

Some of the traditions we have include eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday), setting up our Nature Table as above, eating cleansing food and reducing certain components of our diet, participating in a Bible study for Lent (this year I am studying a part of the book of Psalms), reducing computer time and spending more time together as a family.

One craft to consider for yourself this time of year is wet- on- wet watercolor painting.  I painted the other night for an hour or so, making purple from red and blue.  It is very meditative and calming to do this, and the pictures you paint can then be cut into crosses for your Nature Table, or you can make a transparent part in your paintings with tissue paper of different colors. 

I will be writing a separate post regarding the celebration of  Palm Sunday and the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday.

Many blessings,


9 thoughts on “Lent In The Waldorf Home

  1. Hi Carrie,
    Thank you so much for the wonderful talk you gave on Tuesday night! I love this blog!!! I do have a question. We are new to Waldorf and my daughter is 5 1/2 and is in pre-K and I have a 2 1/2 year old boy. I know in the Waldorf tradition the toys are made of natural materials. My daughter and son is used to having her toys which I would say are mostly comercial toys. What do I do with their toys? Should I remove all of the toys or just add some natural material toys in addition to the toys they have. Also I have been looking on the internet for natural toys and they are quite expensive. Do I just get a few toys and eventually build up or do I need to get everything at once? I’m also worried because my children really love there toys. I’m not sure how to proceed with this transition. Would you be able to offer advice? Thank you.
    Much Light,

  2. can you say more about this part:
    “For a young child, “All Year Round” recommends spending time with your child each day doing one small thing to develop a Lenten mood. This could include sitting together and listening to the birds sing in the morning in silence, taking time to look for the moon each night.”

    we are not a practicing christian family but i have been thinking about the “spirit of lent” and ways i can take it on and lead my family in it. i am just not entirely sure what the lenten mood would be?

    thank you!

  3. Woowoomama – The books Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice and especially Earth Time Moon Time by Annette Hinshaw might have some thoughts you can really use in them. Full Moon Feast has a chapter on famine, fasting and scarcity that might have some interesting thoughts for you to help put lent in a more earth centered context.

    Annette Hinshaw’s book has a whole chapter on what she calls The Fasting Moon. She imagines a society in which people fast in the early spring either out of necessity or voluntarily to make supplies last until the earth provides again. Her book is fantastic, and possibly out of print. Worth finding, though!

    There’s also a great article called Pagan Lent by Waverly Fitzgerald with some non- or extra-christian thoughts on the season. If you google “pagan lent” it will be the first link.

    Hope that helps 🙂

  4. Hi Robin, I think the overall mood of Lent is that appreciation of the simple and the small, the beauty in the dark of Winter, leading to the joyous celebration!
    Does that help?

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