Spring Faire is MAY 4th, this Saturday at City Park
I sent a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it,
A little puppy picked it up
And put it in his pocket.
The memory of my little boy singing this song to me in the car on the way home from pre-school, will forever warm my heart come this time of year! Is this day special in your home? Perhaps a great excuse for Mom and Dad to break away for a well deserved dinner for two?
River Song has a tradition of sharing handmade Valentines. The children work to create a heart shaped “envelope” that will serve to collect the numerous handmade notes of affection that come pouring in on Valentine’s Day, from friends and staff alike! We still have many of the cards we received last year, because they were so unique and truly filled with love.
“Long before St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, a festival was held in ancient Rome during February in honour of the great god Pan. The festival was called Lupercalia, and one of its customs was for the names of young men and women to be shaken in a box and then drawn in lottery fashion to choose token sweethearts. It happened that in the 3rd Century the Bishop Valentine of Rome was martyred on the eve of the feast of Lupercalia. A man noted for his goodness and chastity, it was fitting that the day eventually acquired his name. The element of chance and theme of love remain, as a Valentine is still known as an anonymous declaration of affection usually sent in card form. Flowers, red heart shapes, lace and birds are the images of the festival, the latter because of an old belief that birds also chose their mates on this day for spring nesting.” Taken from Festivals, Family, and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large.
If any of you were involved in the lottery for school of choice this last week, you surely experienced the element of chance, and have hopefully found the theme of love remains.
A fun tradition to start…
Heart Shaped Bird Feeder
You will need:
3 cups birdseed
2 – 1/4 ounce unflavored gelatin packet
Heart shaped cookie cutters
1 straw cut into ~2 inch pieces
Sprinkle two packages of gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Let it sit a couple of minutes until gelatin has absorbed the water. Heat 1 ½ cups water to boiling. Add this into the gelatin mixture. Stir until dissolved. Slowly add this to the birdseed mixture and stir, being sure that it doesn’t become too soupy and that the seeds are well coated. Allow the mixture to cool and soak into the birdseed.
Spray your heart shape with cooking spray. You can make a piece of tin foil your base (spray that too) and fold the excess up the sides of the heart. Pack the birdseed firmly into the heart shape, then insert a piece of your cut straw near the top (this will be the hole that you hang it from.)
You can put these in the freezer (or outside if it is cold enough) to let them set. Keep them frozen until you are ready to share them with your feathered friends!
Adapted from Alphamom: http://alphamom.com/family-fun/crafts/heart-shaped-bird-feeder-diy/
There is something special about this time of year. People alight their houses with cheerful dots of colored lights. The evergreens about town are adorned with bells and bows. People leave their houses in droves and mingle with each other in the shops and eateries. In some homes, soon after night fall, families come together in remembrance to light candles. People plan big meals that call family and friends, near and far, to join in celebration and reverence. Wreaths or boughs of Laurel are symbolically hung. There is the buzz of visitors, the warmth of gift giving, and if you are lucky, you may even hear a chorus of voices trailing through the streets.
What do you remember about Christmas as a child? What can you remember about the feeling of Christmas time? Do you find yourself striving to recreate the rituals and celebrations of Christmas’s past, or are you working to engender a new experience of this time of year for yourself and your family? I am guessing for most of us it is a bit of both.
I have initiated a parent group that meets one Saturday a month to talk about parenting and ways to bring Waldorf principals into our daily lives in support of our children. It seems that most parents are hungry for resources to guide us through the riches that River Song has awakened us to. As I strived to write a post about Christmas, I found myself digging through so many great books! So, here are three books that have inspired my search for meaning in this time of year. The first is a book that invites us, as adults, to explore the many layers of our Christmas time experience past present and future; the second, a book with deep spiritual roots; and the third with roots in nature and the seasons.
Six Ways to Celebrate Christmas and Celebrate You! by Lynn Jericho, is a sort of guidebook to lead you through many questions about your Christmas experiences, enlighten questions about the meaning of this time of year, and bring an understanding of the importance of celebrating Christmas regardless of religious or cultural background. “Christmas is the most complex time of year for our souls. Inwardly, we struggle with all kinds of feelings, intentions, capacities and limitations. The Christmas complexities and struggles show up in my soul as questions and reactions.” My favorite question that she poses at this point in the book is “How do I manage being Santa, Martha Stewart and the Virgin Mary all at once? And still be me?”
“We can renew the impulse to celebrate Christmas by contemplating the fact that, at every Christmas time, an eternal reality seeks to become a new event for mankind. Today we should bear in mind the fact that during these days a spiritual birth takes place in the soul of man. Preparing the house for Christmas should be a sign that we are prepared to give a space in us for Christmas. The fulfillment of this time is prepared through the celebration of Advent.
The days around the winter solstice, now the time in which we celebrate Christmas, had great importance in many pre-Christian religions. During this time the victory of light over darkness was celebrated, for example in the Egyptian, Teutonic, Jewish, Celtic, Roman, and Mithraic religions. It was only in the fourth century that Christmas began to be celebrated on December 25th. Until then the most important day of celebration was January 6, the day of the baptism of Jesus in Jordan, the day of Christ’s actual incarnation upon earth in Jesus.”
This comes from a book called Festivals With Children by Brigitte Barz. She goes on to talk about the archetypal meaning behind the figures in the manger scene, the history and significance of the Christmas tree, Father Christmas, and the twelve days of Christmas (or the twelve Holy Nights). This is a wonderful book that carries you through the deep spiritual significance of all the festivals throughout the year and offers ideas of how to bring these truths to children.
“ ‘King Winter rules throughout the land “with his bold, and mighty, frosty hand.’ Children benefit and appreciate festivals most when they are adapted to fit their natural surroundings. Now is a time to be mindful of the kingdoms of Nature. Are the stones and plants and animals asleep or awake? What is the mood of Nature? What are the elemental beings doing? How can we aid these fairies, elves, and gnomes on behalf of our dear Mother Earth?” (A Child’s Seasonal Treasury by Betty Jones)
This book truly is a treasury of activities, songs, and movement games to inspire actively celebrating the seasons with children. The following is a favorite little poem that brings such a cozy feeling, and always seems to get little hands and feet focused and ready for work as they act out the work of the Mouse:
The Kind Mousie
by Natalie Joan
There once was a cobbler and he was wee,
He lived in a hole in a very big tree.
He had a good neighbor and she was a mouse,
She did his wee washing and tidied his house.
Each morning at 7 he heard a wee tap,
And in came the mouse in her apron and cap.
She lit a small fire and she fetched a wee broom,
She swept and she polished his wee little room.
To take any wages she’d always refuse,
So the cobbler said “Thank You” and mended her shoes.
May your days be merry and bright!
Advent spiral is a celebration of light, movement and symbolic change. Teachers create a large spiral out of pine boughs, with a large lit candle resting in the middle. When it is time to begin a teacher will share a reading and then walk through the spiral with her own unlit candle. Once she reaches the candle in the middle she will light hers and place it somewhere in the pine boughs as she leaves the spiral. The children will be led one by one through the spiral following in suit with the teacher’s example; lighting their candle and placing it around the spiral as they walk out. Sounds of singing by our talented staff will fill the room and slowly it will go from a place of darkness to one of warmth, light, and joy. The journey through the spiral represents winter’s dark growing to a close and the renewed promise that in spring, light and life will begin again.
A star awakes, shines bright
In the depths of night,
Shimmers in the heavens above
Pours upon the world its love.
In the depths of night
A star awakes, shines bright.
**If you would like to find out more information on Advent Spiral or any of the festivals check out the book: Celebrating Festivals with Children by Freya Jaffke in our school library!
The festivals throughout the year give us opportunity to pause, to gather, and to grow together.
Many of you probably experienced your first Waldorf festival at our Michaelmas celebration. Simply put, we came together as a community to share food, to have fun in new experiences (the diligent work for fresh apple cider!), to share a laugh and learn a new name or two. The deeper intent of this festival was to honor and celebrate the bounty of summer, and to recognize the changes that are happening in nature and reflectively, in ourselves.
We now look forward to the Lantern Walk which will take place the evening of October 26th. If you attend only one festival this year, the Lantern Walk is by far the most beautiful (oooh, but then there’s the Advent Spiral… wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.) We will gather at sunset to warm ourselves with fresh bread and hot cider. Then we will come together in listening to a short story, setting the mood for the walk with our lanterns which will commence at 6:30pm. Simply put, we will walk around the lake singing softly and carrying our light that guides us, seeing the beautiful light of each and every lantern as the procession travels around the lake.
The deeper meaning of this festival is to recognize and honor the truth and beauty that lives in each one of us… despite how difficult that can be at times. The lanterns remind us that we can carry our own light into the darkest times (seasonally or spiritually). Our truth, our unique purpose, is ever there to guide us and to be found by others. As so beautifully expressed by the teachers: We come together to find strength in our recognition of each person’s light, in truly seeing the other. We find strength in seeing how brightly we can light the way when we come together as a community. It is in this recognition that we are reminded of our own unique light and how it not only lights our way, but can be a beacon for anyone else who can see it.
Much of what you are reading here is the adult experience of the festivals. Will our children find in their thinking, “Ahh, yes. The light of vast worlds, the light of the summer, the light of my being, all reflected here in this lovely lantern and in the lanterns of my fellow humans.” Not likely… Ok, No. So, how can we bring this to the children in a way that is appropriate for them? By finding our own simple or complex feeling about this time of year and holding that feeling in a conscious way when we are present together. In the power of imitation, our children learn and grow in their human experience by reflecting what we have to offer, eventually making it their own. What we as adults carry consciously during each festival, is like a seed planted in our children and in our community. The experience of walking in the dark among soft singing, carrying a light of one’s own, and recognizing the lights of others on this journey, will penetrate deeply into the heart of each child present. The meaning of this festival is tucked in the seed that is planted by this experience. It hides like the great roots of the old oak tree are hidden in the small acorn.
In this beautiful festival, may we all bring forth the light within ourselves, honor the light in each other, the unique light in each and every child… and just see what comes of our efforts.
The sunlight fast is dwindling,
My little lamp needs kindling,
Let your beams shine far,
Into the dark night.
Little lantern guide me
With your precious light.
-My Little Lamp by Mary Thienes-Schunemann from Sing a Song of Seasons.