Celebrating December Festivals by Susan Silverio

Faith Collins wrote: Have you ever wanted to do something special for a festival and then thought, “No, I could never get all of the parents to keep their voices down/sit still/wear appropriate clothing/sing the same song?”  See how Susan Siverio helps the parents at Spindlewood Waldorf Kindergarten and LifeWays Center, to prepare for their Advent Spiral in early December.  She sets the scene, shares the adult symbolism of the event, and asks that parents allow their children to have their own experiences, without the adult interpretations.  How lovely.

The Advent Spiral is a simple and beautiful festival celebrated on the first Sunday of December in the classroom lit by the glow of just one candle. The candle rests upon a stump placed in the center of a large spiral pathway edged with evergreen boughs, crystals, shells, and golden stars. A kinderharp sets a mood of peaceful anticipation. One by one, the children journey to the center of the spiral carrying an apple with a candle in it. Each child lights his or her own candle at the center and places it on a golden star lining the path (little ones can be accompanied by a parent or “the angel” who watches out for them. When all students have completed the journey, the room is aglow with candlelight. This celebration reminds us that, at this darkest and coldest time of year, our own inner lights serve to bring light and warmth to the world.

A letter to Parents from Susan Silverio:   

Dear Spindlewood Parents,

It is always with much joy that we write to you about the coming season that we will share with the children. Yes, the shops downtown are completely ready for the holiday season, but here in the Kindergarten we possess the luxury of Time. Soon we will feed the last pumpkin to the sheep. Our leaves are raked and our firewood is stacked. Just as the November winds and rains have swept away all signs of early autumn, we are cleaning out and making ready for what is to come. The woods and frog ponds are becoming quiet, and daylight is dwindling. There is an emptiness as the Earth breathes in and expectancy as we approach the darkest time of the year. It is as if the entire natural world is coming to a point of stillness – waiting for the advent of what… and who… is to come.

Throughout history, humankind has waited for the return of the sun and the rebirth of life. There are as many ways to celebrate this as there are individuals. We experience it in several ways with the children. Here is a description of some of the activities and events to come in the kindergarten.

The Moss Garden – Each child will receive a ceramic bowl. During the first week of Advent, beginning with the sparseness of the empty bowl, we will experience the gifts from the mineral world – sand, shells and crystals. During the second week we find the world of plants, using the moss that we have carefully gathered. Following this is the animal world. Finally, we come to the human realm, represented by a candle. Here we make way for the arrival of the human family. The father, the symbol of meeting this earthly world as it is; the mother, the symbol of nourishing what wants to grow and become; and the child, symbol of inexhaustible potential, of the human spirit.

For our young children, the center of their lives is their family. Father and Mother to a little child are much more than individual personalities. They are the fullness, love, support and encouragement that surround them. And surely every family who receives a child has a moment of experiencing that they receive a gift from heaven. Somewhere in our consciousness we regard them as a little King or Queen, and of course during infancy they are treated as such.

So it is for this that we build our gardens during the season of Advent. We celebrate the family (not necessarily the historical Holy Family, but a Universal Family). This is what surrounds our children as they become a part of this world. We mark this coming into the world or “incarnating” with the family festival of the Advent Spiral. This will take place at 4:30 pm on the first Sunday of December at Spindlewood. Inside the Kindergarten, a spiral of evergreens is built on the floor with a large pillar candle standing on a stump in the center. At the opening of the spiral are set shining red apples with small white candles placed in the center. Here we find the spiral form as symbolic of the universe. Everything – galaxies, growing vines, seashells, our bones, the inner part of our ear, all move or are formed in the dynamic of the spiral. When we wipe a table, sweep the floor or rake leaves, the movements are in the spiral.

The evergreens placed in this form are “everlasting”, eternal. The child takes her apple that is symbolic of one’s own individual karma or life challenges, walks into the spiral, lights her candle from the central pillar, walks out of the spiral and places the apple and lighted candle on the spot that she chooses. The child finds her place in the world. As each child adds her lighted candle to the dark garden it gradually becomes illuminated. This beautiful ceremony is accompanied by singing and the gentle tones of the harp of our neighbor, Cheryl.

Of course, no discussion of how the symbolism is interpreted occurs before or after the event. We allow the child to take what he may from the ceremony. We allow him to enter fully, without discussion. For safety sake, please no long dresses, and long hair needs to be tied back away from the candle flame. Afterward, the apples and candles will be brought outside and distributed. If there are siblings or friends between the ages of 4 and 9 who would like to carry an apple/candle, please sign their names on the poster in the mudroom, so that we will know how many to prepare.

Tuesday, December 6 is the feast of St. Nicholas – Who knows, perhaps he will find his way to our polished boots and shoes?

On our last day of school before vacation, Thursday, December 15families are invited in from 8:30 – 9:30 for a Gingerbread Tea Party. The oldest girl in the kindergarten will serve as Santa Lucia in the Swedish tradition, and…we may share our Shepherd Circle Play!

Wishing you all joy and deep peace,

Miss Susan 

Susan Silverio is the founder and Director of Spindlewood Waldorf Kindergarten and Lifeways Center in Lincolnville, Maine. She also headed the LifeWays training in the NorthEast for many years and will be teaching again in the next training in Asheville, NC.