Here’s a branch of snowy May,
A branch the fairies gave me.
Who would like to dance today,
With a branch the fairies gave me?
Dance away, dance away,
Holding high the branch of May.
–Traditional May Day Song
May Day is such a beautiful day full of cheer! There are many beautiful cultural and folk traditions around this special day. One often thinks of the image of dancers around a Maypole. In the book “All Year Round”, the authors remark that originally the Maypole was a tree, sometimes up to sixty feet high, cut and stripped of all its branches except the top (which then symbolized new life). It was decorated and set up in an open space. Ribbons were often added, and then the dancers around the pole move in such a way as to plait the ribbons in patterns.
May Day brings promise: to the farmer, the promise of kind weather; to the girl who washes her face in the May Day dew, the promise of a fine complexion; to the young people weaving the pattern of creation around the Maypole, the eternal promise of the future. – From page 84, “All Year Round”
Some beautiful ways to celebrate the promise of May Day:
- Make a May Pole and invite children to dance! Yes, there are May Pole dances on You Tube if you have never seen one in person!
- Play games – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” recounts that sports at the May Day festival included smearing poles with grease and seeing who could climb to the top the fastest, races on foot, sack races, blindfolded races, wrestling, hopping and jumping contests
- Make ankle bracelets with little bells that ring when you walk and braided wreaths of flowers for the heads of the children you love.
- Make a special May Day cake with a small maypole on the top! Sponge cake is rather traditional.
- Learn music for May Day. Here is a link with some song ideas, including one May Day song from the Appalachian region of the United States!
- Get up early and wash your faces in the morning dew
- Make beautiful May Day baskets or cones and fill them flowers – leave them on your neighbor’s doors
- Decorate your own house with wreaths, garlands, ribbons
- Pick herbs and dry them
- Go on a picnic – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” has suggestions for food
- Some parts of Europe hold bonfires – consider a bonfire!
For more ideas see the following books:
- “Celebrating Irish Festivals”
- “All Year Round”
- “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions”
- “Festivals, Families and Food”
- “Spring” – Wynstones
- You Tube for videos of May Pole dances
- I have a small “May” Pinterest board that has some ideas as well.
Festivals for small children are in the doing, so please do choose something and start your traditions!
I know many parents who are starting to gather together some small treats for Easter baskets. I wanted to share with you some ideas I have collected over the years for baskets, including ideas for older children.
First of all, if you are looking for organic, fair trade or allergen free candy, you can try some of the suggestions listed here: here
If you are looking for a healthy alternative to those marshmallow Peeps, try this recipe
Ideas for baskets:
- Bubbles/cool bubble wands
- Small balls with different textures
- Seed packets/gardening tools
- Jump ropes
- Pool or sandbox toys
- Wooden animals or gasp, plastic animals if they are going to go live in the sandbox or a pond of water
- Sidewalk chalk
- Kites (older children love these as well!)
- Supplies to build a fairy house
- Accessories for bicycles like a bell for the bike or a bike basket
- Pool goggles, swim shoes, snorkles (older children as well!)
- Play silks
- Clothespins and braided yarn ropes –they can be so many things!
- Stuffed animals – homemade felt or knitted animals – or Waldorf dolls
- Clothing for dolls, yarn “leashes” for stuffed dogs
- Playmats that roll up for small animals, figures or tiny cars. Many of the playmats are easy to sew.
For older children:
- Craft kits
- Paper dolls to cut out
- Small model sets that will fit in basket
- Woodworking or leather working tools
- Yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks or supplies for cross stitching
- For older teen sewers, the book “Sew Fab” might be nice. (My teen has been eyeing it. It is geared towards teen girl clothing).
- Card games
- Art supplies
- Gift cards (sorry, but older teens love gift cards)
For religious items, you could think about icons (there are even small laminated print icons), Bibles or other religious books, necklaces or bracelets with crosses.
What are your favorite things to put in an Easter basket? Please leave the age of your children with your item in the comment box!
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: Continue reading
“For most American households the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original significance. We can remediate the consumer holiday it has become by creating a Thanksgiving gathering and feast in kindergarten for the children and their families, where we give a living example of gratitude and joy for what we have and what we can share together.” – “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke
We begin sowing the seeds for Thanksgiving celebration by the observation of all the reverent moments that make up our very ordinary days throughout the entire year. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest being in, and this has been done in different varying festivals since ancient times. The American Thanksgiving is just one festival of many that exemplifies the manifestation of the harvest as a culmination of the gratitude and reverence we share throughout the year with our children.
Thanksgiving is one of America’s oldest festivals, and one of ten federal holidays declared by the United States Congress. Although schoolchildren often trace it back to the Pilgrims and a harvest gathering, the first national observation of Thanksgiving was actually proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789. Thanksgiving was celebrated erratically after this date by individual states and at different times, and Sarah Hale, editor of the Boston Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, championed the idea of having a national day of Thanksgiving for nearly 15 years before Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in the month of November in 1863. You can read Lincoln’s proclamation here. It actually took until 1941, when Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by the United States Congress, to arrive at its current date of the fourth Thursday of each November.
Simple tasks that we can undertake for this festival with small children include Continue reading
This time of Halloween/All Saints Day/All Souls Day and leading into Martinmas leads me to think about light and lanterns. There is a passage from the book “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke that I like regarding “Lantern Time”:
“Two lantern festivals mark this time. From the Celtic tradition there is Halloween on October 31, and from Continental Europe we have Martinmas on November 11. Halloween is connected with the earth, and its turnip or pumpkin lanterns are made of fruits from the ground. Martinmas commemorates a human deed of sharing, and its paper lanterns are entirely made by human hand. As the outer light of day diminishes, there is first a kind of afterglow of e earth – the turnip or pumpkin lanterns. Then there is the human spark of kindness we see in the paper lanterns of Martinmas. The light is gradually transformed from the outer light of the sun in summer to the internal spirit light of Advent and Christmas.”
This is a wonderful time of year to think about any changes in rhythm that you want to make as the days grow shorter, the nights longer and colder. It is also a wonderful time to think about bringing light into your home. I know Waldorf teachers who light lanterns whilst the children play and keep lanterns up in the school room until the light of Advent comes. Continue reading
Someone told me today that there are nine weekends left until Christmas Day. Uh, no stress there at all!
That thought made me think about children and gifts and this article written by Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting, and available over at Waldorf In The Home here. It speaks eloquently about slowing down the season, really choosing how we use our time, and how children love the preparation of the holidays….
Which led me to think about gifts that children love to make and give. I have some tried and true favorites, including: Continue reading
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!
My own mother died after a very a long illness when I had just turned eight, and I was raised by my paternal grandmother. She had three sisters,and the four of them were very, very close. I also had an amazing maternal grandmother. I was very fortunate to have all of them speaking into my life.
The grandmother who raised me wrote this in honor of mothers everywhere for a mother-daughter banquet at her church long, long before I was born and I share it here with you today: Continue reading