This past week and the one to follow, the children and teachers at The Kindergarten have been preparing to celebrate Michaelmas, or St. Michael’s Day, on Friday, 23 September. This is one of the four seasonal festivals we celebrate each year and the topic for this issue.
Festivals play a prominent role in a Waldorf school: they reflect the spiritual reality of what is happening to the earth during important passages during the year. Any Waldorf alumni will tell you that some of the highlights of their school career were the festival celebrations. The four festivals we celebrate in The Kindergarten are Easter (autumn), St. John’s (winter), Michaelmas (spring) and Advent (summer).
Michaelmas is traditionally celebrated during the autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. At this time, temperatures started to drop and people had to prepare for winter, facing long hours of darkness, possible hunger and solitude. In a spiritual context this is symbolic of how we have to find the courage to look deep within ourselves to face, and conquer, our inner fears and insecurities.
In a Waldorf nursery school, these deeper meanings are neither divulged nor explained to the children. We respect each individual’s own interpretation of these universal truths. The teachers simply create joy in celebrating the new season and what it brings. In the Southern Hemisphere our season during Michaelmas is spring and we focus on noticing green buds sprouting new life everywhere, the sun rising earlier and setting later, the wind distributing seeds and pollen and the approaching rain clouds – a time of renewed growth. This forms acute awareness from a young age about how we ourselves relate to the seasonal changes.
In The Kindergarten the festivities are building up to the last day of school when the main celebration will take place. In preparation, the children will hear stories about how the Archangel Michael slayed the dragon in terms understandable to them and they will learn songs and rhymes about courage and strength. They have baked and eaten dragon-shaped bread and will go on a walk and have a picnic next Friday when school closes for the October break. On this picnic, the teachers will treat them to a colourful dragon cake.
A memorable end to the last day of the third term!