“The original idea of any sacred festival is to make the human being look upward from his dependence on earthly things to those things that transcend the Earth.”
– Rudolf Steiner
Festival celebrations are central in any Waldorf school. They help instil consciousness of the rhythms of nature, the passing of time and become highlights in the memory of any Waldorf child.

Each festival has its own identity and rituals and even the bigger children in the middle school still get excited in their preparations for each festival. The joy of the expectation, preparation, celebration and the lasting memories afterwards is what make these events stand out in later years.

We celebrated St. John’s, or the Winter Solstice this past Wednesday, 21 June at The Kindergarten. The children usually each make their own paper lantern and Sharné and Debbie created these lanterns as a last parting gift to the children. Yolandé started teaching the children the words to some special songs and on the morning of the festival everyone was abuzz with anticipation.

Everything on a festival day is approached differently and every effort is made to let the children feel the excitement building, leaving a lasting impression. Nomsa started cooking a large pot of delicious vegetable soup with a generous helping of aromatic herbs very early in the morning. After breakfast Yolandé and Mary built a small fire outside and the children gathered in a circle, singing their festival songs and building up the courage to jump the fire.

Yes, the children all jumped over the fire with the help of Yolandé and Ma’ Mary!

The first time I heard that my toddler was going to jump over a fire I nearly keeled over. I always taught my children to steer well clear of open flames, or not to play with fire and now they were letting my child jump over A FIRE! When I read up on the symbolism behind the jumping, it all made beautiful sense to me: In jumping over the fire, we cast off that which we want to let go of. The cleansing properties of the flames make us see the essence of things and the true path we must take. St. John’s flame which burns warm in each of our hearts, gives us the courage and joy to follow our own path.

In the meantime, Nomsa and Martha closed all the curtains in The Kindergarten rooms and lit the candles inside the lanterns. Each child was given a lantern and walked in a long procession through the building, reverently singing in their pure voices. Lunch was a much more jovial affair with boerewors rolls and soup on the menu and jelly and custard for dessert.

One child told her parents: “It was the best day of my life!” A beautiful testament to the impact these celebrations have on our little ones.

The next festival to look forward to will be St. Michael’s, or the Spring Equinox on 22 September.