I recently participated in my eighth year of preparing an Advent Spiral with community. Walking an Advent Spiral is often traditional for children in the older kindergarten and early grades within the Waldorf School. The spiral is not a religious ritual and it is also not explained to the children. Instead, walking the spiral is an experiential spiritual act to commemorate the lighting of our own inner light to carry us through the dark months of winter, and letting this let shine out through the darkness of humanity as well.
Within the Waldorf School environment, the Advent Spiral is set up already and magically appears before the children. Sometimes there is an Angel Guide to guide the children through the spiral to the center candle. The children usually hold an apple that has a beeswax candle in it, and then after their candle is lit they set it down on a spot within the spiral as they walk out.
In the home environment, there is a bit more to it since the spiral often needs to be assembled on the spot whilst families are present, especially because often families inspired by this type of festival are spread out throughout a geographic area and coming together from far distances. There are many ways to construct a festival for community; below follows just one way I have seen work well in the past.
So, before the spiral:
- Gather your greens ahead of time. Often chain stores such as Home Depot or Lowe’s will give you any leftover cuttings from their Christmas trees for free. Also have a pair of clippers on hand to clip any long branches during your spiral making.
- Gather things to decorate your spiral. Often the four kingdoms of mineral, plant, animal and human beings are represented. This can include geodes or crystals, coral or shells, wooden animals, extra or different greenery, wooden animals, needle felted figures. You will also need a stump or something to elevate the central candle in the middle of the spiral, and a large central beeswax candle.
- Decide if you want some sort of marker for where children place their candle. We have often used gold stars in the past cut out of paper placed on the spiral so the children know where to set their candle down once it is lighted.
- Decide how you will open the spiral or end it. Traditionally in the home environment, I like to start in silence, have the children walk the spiral in silence or with a soft guitar playing chords in the background, and end with a soft dismissal, but you could also start and/or end with singing.
- Plan food. Yes, I know most Waldorf Educators associate food with more of a Solstice Party, but again, if the reality is that families and small children are coming from afar to have a spiral at night when it is dark, everyone will need to eat something.
- Have a plan for fire safety – make sure the girls’ hair is pulled back, and have a bucket of water at the ready. Have a fire extinguisher as well. Assign a parent to be on “watch” during the spiral itself – often a candle that has fallen down can be quickly moved to upright with no problems whatsoever. In eight years I have never been at an Advent Spiral where something caught on fire!
At the event itself:
- Assemble all the apples/candles on a tray with the child’s name by it. We often have done this in order of age with the oldest child in the group walking first and the youngest child walking last. Have a separate list with birthdates if you need it.
- Have everyone eat and start to clean up.
- Have a group of mothers who assemble the spiral whilst the fathers/partners keep the children busy. Sometimes a walk is helpful at this point so the children are out of the house. You can explain to the other parents before hand that the spiral is not normally seen by the children until they are ready to walk it. After the spiral is laid out and assembled, the group of mothers may choose to say a verse or prayer over the spiral. Positive energy, peace and goodwill often just seem to consume the space during this process of laying the spiral.
- Have everyone take their things to the car and assemble in a place that can accommodate the children lining up in order of age.
- Have a mother helper or Angel Guide to hand an apple/candle to each child before they walk the spiral.
- Each child walks the spiral and lights their candle from the central candle. It is always interesting to observe how each child walks the spiral.
- Once everyone is done, stand and look at the beautiful lit spiral.
- Everyone is dismissed to their cars, and the helper mothers stay to extinguish the candles and bring them out to the cars to return them to the children.
- Try to keep the beautiful mood peaceful in the car for the ride home and hold that beautiful picture of light in the darkness in your heart. ❤
Other resources about the Advent Spiral:
I am not sure if this link to this photo will work, but this is a picture of an Advent Spiral with the Madonna (sometimes called Mother Mary in the school environment – I am Christian so in my home environment I think of her as St. Mary) as the background. It is beautiful, and not often seen in Waldorf Schools, I don’t think. Here is the photograph.
As a brief comment on the above Facebook picture, the Madonna, seen in this picture as a beautiful protective and peaceful force is an inclusive image, as explained in the post above. We exude love for all the children within our community, not just our own biologic children. We exude a love of all of humanity. This also made me think of this article from the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto written about a lecture by Dorit Winter The way this article ends is in this thought:
Perhaps it would be best to end this report with the thought that true self confidence rests upon trust in God. This trust can become an ever-flowing fount for life and a deep source of modesty:
“Not me, but Christ in me.”
In this season of darkness, in this seemingly unsettling times of darkness in humanity that we are witnessing every day, may we all come to find the light, Christ within us.