A Special Day: The Feast of St. Brigid

 

A hiatus at this time can throw me back on myself – to ask “Where is my new growth?”  On the other hand, I may be overwhelmed by a sudden hustle of seasonal development and wonder “Am I ready for this?”  I realise I am no longer carried by Nature as I was when a child; I have to find my own way back to life.  For the adult, transitions can be lonely times, and to find our way from the dead of winter to new life in the year ahead we may need to tap much deeper sources of hope and inner confidence.  In this, the sequence of the Festivals can be a support.” – page 26, “All Year Round” by Druitt, Fynes-Clinton, Rowling

Today kicks off two days of festival wonder!  Today is the Feast of St. Brigid, and tomorrow is Candlemas, one of my favorite holidays.  Today, February 1st, is seen as the first day of spring.  I know this seems very odd indeed when in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere people are dealing with ice and cold, but within the agricultural realm, this day  marks the days becoming a bit longer.  This is a traditional time to prepare for lambing, and usually spring sowing begins.

St. Brigid became revered as a Saint within the advent of Christianity in Ireland.  There are stories about Brigid as the daughter of  the innkeeper that gave the holy family shelter in the stable, that she helped Mary escape with an infant Jesus by distracting guards who searched on King Herod’s orders.  She is also associated with having a cloak of miracles.  In some stories, Brigid requested to have land given to her by the King of Leinster, and when the King said she could have whatever her cloak covered, she laid it down and the cloak covered a large parcel of land!

Here are some ways to celebrate:

  • Make St. Brigid Crosses as protection from evil, fire,  lightening, disease.  There are many instructions for this one the web. Here is what they look like if you are not familiar:  http://janegmeyer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/fifth-century-weaving-a-saint-brigids-cross/
  • Leave out a cloak for St. Brigid to bless as she comes by that will give the wearer protection.
  • Leave out a bowl of milk, butter,  and salt, for Brigid to bless as she comes by.  Leave out a bowl of oats or blessed food.  If you leave out seeds, these will be blessed for Spring Sowing.
  • Food may include freshly churned butter and braided bread. (St. Brigid was known as a cowherd and also a beekeeper).  Making some sort of bread with honey may also be appropriate.  I love the idea of making a cultured butter and Irish Soda Bread today!
  • Snowdrops and dandelions, white and yellow, might be festive for your table with white or green candles and your St.  Brigid’s crosses.
  • There is a lovely prayer for this day:

    Saint Brigid Hearth Keeper Prayer
    Courtesy of SaintBrigids.org

    Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
    Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
    Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
    Beneath your mantle, gather us,
    And restore us to memory.
    Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
    Guide our hands in yours,
    Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
    To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
    Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
    To kindle the light, Both day and night.
    The Mantle of Brigid about us,
    The Memory of Brigid within us,
    The Protection of Brigid keeping us
    From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
    This day and night,
    From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.

    Spring comes fast in the south where I live; I am feeling in the mood to change our nature table to some of the very simplest spring treasures of pussy willows, or budding branches.  This will turn into a simple Lenten table soon enough.

    Many blessings in your celebrations this week,

    Carrie

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Celebrating The Light Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I love this little prayer.  We are currently using it as a breakfast blessing, and will continue to use it until Lent.  Before we began saying this prayer, my little seven year old saw a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commented that Dr. King “worked for all of America,” which I thought was an astute comment. May we all work for our own families, for each other and to build our nations in love and in generosity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day  is an important day in the cycle of American festivals.  There are only three American federal holidays named after specific people:  George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is a day to celebrate the light and legacy of Dr. King:  his powerful oration, his ability to galvanize a nation toward equality in love, the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner at the time.

Our family is extremely lucky to live within driving distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and can visit and walk the areas that were most impactful in Dr. King’s life.  For those of you in many different parts of the country and world, perhaps you will be volunteering today to further light in the world.  Perhaps you will be supporting organizations that champion equality today; in the South we have the Southern Poverty Law Center which does work in civil rights and public interest legislation.

Perhaps for small children you would like to listen to the Sparkle Stories in honor of the legacy of Dr. King.

There are also many wonderful books to read:

I Have A Dream Book and CD

The Cart That Carried Martin (regarding the funeral of Dr. King)

There are many sort of “mid level” biographies to enjoy

“March” – the graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis (preread) (for tweens, teens, adults)

Adults may enjoy the March Trilogy and also this book, “A Gift of Love: Sermons From Strength to Love And Other Preachings” by Dr. King

 

Great inspiration for teenagers for artwork for the day could include the artwork of Derek Russell, which was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  and I have been looking at this morning for my own inspiration.

Volunteering as a family is  a way that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often celebrated.  Volunteering is another wonderful way to spend time together, build family bonds, and help others.  Sometimes families have a hard time finding volunteer opportunities that will take children under the age of 16, but I encourage you to check with different places in your area.  You may be surprised!

However, we must never forget that volunteerism also begins at home.  We help each other when we are stressed, tired, or upset.   We work together as a family team.   If we live in a neighborhood or subdivision, we help our neighbors in need, whether that is a hot meal or a listening ear.

May the selfless spirit of this day infuse every day for you and your family,

Carrie

 

Love: The Fourth Week of Advent

It is so wonderful that we get an entire week for the fourth week of Advent this year!  There are so many wonderful traditions to do this week, including a celebration of Winter Solstice on December 21.

The Advent Verse from the London Steiner School says:

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

(Again, Advent Verse – London Steiner School)

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This, to me,  illuminates the true meaning of Christmastide to come.  We come to this Earth with gifts, with hopes, thoughts and the ability to do good deeds for all of humankind and for the least among us.  It is our personal responsibility to see the justice and dignity of all people. It is our gift to help and encourage mankind and to provide the goodness and beauty we wish to see in this world.  We are here to love and serve others.

So, this week is all about the light and love we can bring to the world.  If you are looking for ideas, I suggest these back posts:

2012 (story suggestions and more)

2015

Celebrating the Winter Solstice from 2015

My ideas for the week of Advent with its focus on mankind and kind deeds include

Creating/placing people on the Nativity Scene (some place the shepherds out this week if St. Mary and St. Joseph are already out)

Baking gingerbread people

Doing beautiful acts of kindness for those who need it most.

Thanking the workers of your community – postal people, fire people, police, garbage collectors, teachers, mentors, instructors, and more!

For celebrating Solstice, the first day of winter, I love winter walks, dinners by candlight, sun bread, sun tea, making little treats for the birds and decorating an outdoor tree.

How about walking a beautiful Advent Spiral?  You can see this post from 2014 as to how to prepare a beautiful Spiral for your own family or community.

Keep shining in the darkness,

Carrie

 

 

Planning Ahead: The Twelve Days of Christmas

This is one of those posts to nudge you to think ahead a bit – Christmas is coming, but that day is solely the FIRST day of twelve days of Christmas!  In my religious tradition, we actually call it “Christmastide.” The waiting of Advent is over and the celebration of food and Christmas carols is just beginning on Christmas Day!  It is a happy, festive time ending with Twelfth Night (January 5th) and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day on January 6th.

This is such a lovely time of year.  Some families  give and receive gifts and visitors throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, making it a time of warmth and connection.  Others celebrate the Feast Days of the Christian Church. Some focus on having the Three Wise Men make their way throughout the home to the Holy Family in time of the celebration of Epiphany.  Some plan on wonderful experiences as a family to create memories that last the whole day through. (And I love the idea of experiences, and will be creating some of that during this year’s Christmastide celebration!)

In the spirit of the Waldorf School, the joyous  Twelve Days of Christmas have an inner, reflective state known as the Twelve Holy Nights.  Lynn Jericho writes about the meaning of these nights on The Wonder of Childhood.  Here is another article by Fairy Dust Teaching.   I will be honest and say I do not connect with the the esoteric astrology of the Twelve Nights.  At this point, I find value in the Anglican traditions surrounding Christmastide, but the inner reflective state does deeply resonate with me.  This is one of my most favorite times of the years due to that quiet strength of connection to the spiritual world.  It is enlivening and invigorating to really sink into inner work, praying, and  planning my passions and ideas in a fresh way for a new year.

This year, I am planning on focusing on twelve different aspects of how I wish to see change in me, my family, and the world.  I don’t have all of the details ironed out yet, but am brainstorming.  In my head, I have tied each day to a quality I associate with each of the twelve months.  I believe the first day I will focus on Warmth – what the potential for connection to take place in warmth and love and openness, and how I can make my physical home and my emotional state warm to myself and others.  The second day I am considering Love – the unselfish and compassionate love of putting someone else higher than oneself – and how this fits into my family life and my work in the world.  And so forth.

I am also interested in really meditating and praying for our children, and to see what areas that we would love to help guide and develop in them so they can go out into the world and share their gifts with all of humanity in a way that is helpful, generous, and encouraging for mankind.

If you are interested in this, you may appreciate some of these back posts.

2008 (plans for the Twelve Days of Christmas)

2009

2011

More 2011 (Day by day through the Christian Feast Days of Christmastide)

2012 (a day by day list for biography work)

2013 (Celebrating Christmastide)

I hope everyone is having an Advent of wonder and anticipation.  I would love to hear what you are doing and what is wonderful.  It can be an overwhelming time of year for some, a grumpy and too fussy of a time for others, and sometimes just hearing the small positive things about this season can be a light.  Please consider sharing and uplifting other readers.

Blessings and light,
Carrie

 

 

The Third Week of Advent: Faith

This is a beautiful week in Advent, and one of my favorites.  This is the Advent Verse from the London Steiner School for this week:

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

I have always loved this imagery.  Faith may be associated with a strong belief in God or a religious doctrine.  There is no proof; it is just the believer.  Faith is also defined as unwavering trust and confidence in something.  The Children’s Ministry Director at my parish would often use the phrase in conversation that she would “trust” that this little part of Sunday School would go well when we were planning lessons.  She would “trust” that the child would find what needed to be revealed to them in the seasons of the Church, and in all due time.  Her lessons were watching the moon in the fall, planting bulbs in the spring, noticing the beauty all around us.  Trust in the process of life, and in the people we know and love, is all around us if we can let go of the “should’s”.

Such a small word; trust.  I have started working with a Passion Planner.  Do you all know what that is?  There are several different versions out on the market.  I have been thinking ahead about Christmastide and the Twelve Holy Nights.  What I want to do is pick twelve different areas I would like to bring my thoughts, attention, connection to and then to “trust” that I can do the work in these areas and let it go and see what beautiful things happen.  2017 should be beautiful!

So, back to trust in Advent. The animals are all preparing and waiting.  What beautiful imagery to share with children!  I have some ideas in this Advent post from 2012.  Many of my ideas focus on the birds, the mice, creating treats for our pets, and getting outside in nature.  Thinking about the migration cycles of birds in your area can be another way to tie in the faith and joy of this week as our feathered friends travel thousands of miles. There are book and activity suggestions for this week in this post from 2015.

One thing that is coming up this week (on December 13th)  is the beautiful day of Santa Lucia. Here are back posts from:

2015

2013 (link to story)

2011 (a sweet and gentle story)

2010 (lots of links)

2009 (a song)

2009

2009 (handwork)

 

Lastly, I would like to make a plea. This week can become very busy, especially for those of us with older children who are involved in things. Please plan some hiking, some ice skating, (or if you are in the Southen Hemisphere, are you all swimming?)  Plan some game nights for older children and teens.  Enjoy slowing down and being together!  Our two oldest children have been very busy with music right now – it is that time of year, but the actual downtime is so important!  Please share your plans, ideas, and celebrations for this week.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Some Favorite Holiday Gifts!

Today, our focus is on the act of giving gifts for our family members, although I want to say right away  that my favorite gift  is a gift that “gives” to our children but the physical results may go to someone else. Please consider volunteering, buying  gifts for, or helping in any way someone or an organization who needs help around the holidays.  This might be the most important part of the holidays, and I think is vital for teenagers who should be moving into a stage of love for all of humanity and a sense of responsibility to help others.  Many teenagers I know have their basic needs met and some of their “wants” too, (and don’t really need more “stuff”) but instead need to start to penetrate the meaning of generosity, giving, and love for humanity.

That said, we are talking about gift-giving today, and I would love to hear everyone’s favorite holidays gifts for different ages, and also to hear what YOU want for a holiday gift.  There can be many traditions around gift-giving depending upon religious and cultural backgrounds.  I have readers from all over the world and it is always fun to hear about gift-giving traditions in different countries!   Many of the  households here in the States involved in Waldorf Education exchange simple gifts, some spread gifts out throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, some spread out gifts all the way from St. Nicholas Day to Candlemas!

Here is a run-down on just a few of my favorite gifts:

For Dads and  Moms:  coupons for massages,  folks who knit might like special yarn or plant-dyed felt or yarn bowls, woodworking supplies, art supplies, gardening supplies, books on any special topic of interest, equipment for exercising/hiking/skiing/kayaking, an overnight getaway with spouse/friends if the children are old enough! Please chime in with some fantastic ideas for fathers especially!

For Waldorf Homeschooling Parents especially:  Any of the wonderful Waldorf homeschooling books that are difficult to afford during the school year, art supplies.  Gift certificates for “time to plan” LOL

For tiny children under the age of 7:  open-ended toys, play silks, clips, a special doll, outdoor toys for older children in this age range such as a balance bike or a rocker.  For more suggestions further broken down by age,  see this post on holiday gifts for children and keeping things reasonable! or the popular post  Toys, Toys, Toys where things are really broken down by age for this Early Years group.

For children ages 7-10:  I love games.  My new favorites are Ocean Labyrinth and Shadows in the Forest.  Other ideas include craft kits, knitting supplies, crocheting supplies, embroidery, good art supplies, beeswax, candle making and decorating kits, toys for outside play – slack lines, bikes, a trampoline (!!).  Dollhouses, castles, little wooden figures.

For children ages 10-14:  Games, books, art supplies as mentioned for ages 7-10, outside play toys such as stilts or a unicycle or more advanced bike, musical instruments, experiences outside the home with memberships to places of interest, coupons for dates out with a parent alone.   Many children in this age bracket also are in the height of Lego play so whilst that is plastic, I think it is realistic that many children would like that!

For children ages 14 and up:  I still like games, books, and art supplies; tickets to concerts or the opera or ballet; coupons for dates with a parent alone; experiences or memberships to local museums, nature centers or other places of interest; some teens are interested in more musical instruments; puzzles;  gift certificates for a class they want to take or for supplies to support their favorite hobbies.

Can’t wait to hear all of your ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Magic of the Feast of St. Nicholas

In the book, “Gazing Into The Eyes of the Future :  The Enactment of Saint Nicholas In The Waldorf School,” by David Tresemer,  it is written: “Augustine, another saint, said, “Our whole business in this life to restore the health of the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”  The St. Nicholas that visits the classrooms in a Waldorf School is searching and seeking soul to soul with the child in front of them in an intimacy of the heart, and in a  special moment to communicate to the child a thank you for being here in this time and space and for being part of the healing of a broken world in the future. What gifts, talents, and dreams do these children bring?  We have gratitude for this with the children in front of us.

As we lay out the traditional gifts of St. Nicholas (citrus, dates and golden walnuts are mentioned particularly for the older children and high schoolers), let us ponder the beautiful continuinty of the seasons through many , many years of doing this for our children.  May the light embodied in this festival shine into our children and for their place in the world.

Younger students, those under fifth grade, can hear stories of St. Nicholas’ great courage and generosity.  Older students, oddly enough, in a Waldorf School, may hear something about Rupert. Rupert is seen in Waldorf Schools as have fallen mightly and yet can still be touched and transformed by the light of St. Nicholas.  He may be mischevious when he visits the schools, but St. Nicholas often says, “He is trying to be good.”  Together, St. Nicholas and Rupert reflect the duality of the human being in so many ways, and the compassion we must show one another in the struggle.  What a valuable lesson for all older children, especially those in high school. This is often an aspect  I find often not considered by homeschooling families.  There is a story about Nicholas and Rupert in the back of book mentioned above that could be shared with older children.

Other wonderful traditions for this day could include dipping candles, creating a gingerbread house, or making gingerbread.  Crafting rosettes, frost paintings, or even paper snowflakes could be fun activities for the day as well.  I always remember the line in the book, “All Year Round, ” that states that adults often experience struggle or depression during Advent. How much more edifying and nourishing it is to keep these traditions of joy year after year!

Many blessings,

Carrie