The days are growing shorter, the mornings are darker when we get up, and in the absence of the sun, it is time to turn inward and create a little light of our own. Our Waldorf school held an Advent Garden spiral walk this week for all the students, and one on Sunday night for adults. We have a wonderfully diverse school community, so our celebration of the Advent Season means a lot of different things to different folks, but I think the important part is that we’re all having a reverent experience together in a modern world where reverence can be difficult to find. The Advent Garden Spiral is more a Waldorf school tradition than a long-standing Advent tradition from what I understand, but for anyone who has ever done a meditative labrynth walk, I think this is a similar experience. It really sets the mood for a different sort of holiday season filled with more stillness, reverence, contemplation and beauty amongst the prevailent hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, and general busy-ness that surrounds us in November and December.
Families in the school community brought in their boughs and evergreen trimmings before Thanksgiving break. Then, in the school’s Great Hall, the teachers created a large, curving double spiral from the fragrant boughs with a stump in the center of each topped with a large candle. Heavy curtains were drawn over the windows and paper was taped over the glass on the doors to create the darkness of winter time.
They decorated the spiral with crystals, large geodes and golden paper stars.
An apple was carved into a candle holder for each child in the school and these were set out waiting on plates in the Great Hall.
Then, each class walked quietly in to the dark, silent hall with only the sound of a harp player’s soft melodies. They each received a candle in an apple and walked slowly into the center of the spiral where they lit their candle on the large one and set it down along the edge as they walked out of the spiral. Soon the whole spiral was lit up with all the little candles flickering in the darkness. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
Here is an exerpt from our Parents Guide to the Winter Festivals created by the early childhood teachers:
“The Advent Garden came about in 1926, when Dr. Karl Schubert, a remedial teacher from the Stuggart Waldorf School, became familiar with the spiral movement as a curative form for the rhythmic and sensory system. Later he was inspired by a Bavarian custom of creating a moss garden with fir twigs which was then lit up by candles mounted on apples. Dr. Schubert created a big spiral out of moss and fir branches onto which one walked to light their own apple candle from the center, placed it along the path, until the whole spiral garden was illuminated. The movement was going ito and going out of the spiral. One walked into the darkness, finding that the eternal light was always there to enkindle every human being.”