Festivals as part of the Curriculum

Yearly Rhythm of Faires, Festivals, and Celebrations 

“Celebrating festivals illuminates our life on earth with heavenly meaning and shows us the significance of our human existence in the universe. We human beings stand between the two worlds uniting them in ourselves. We are the crossing point where the upper circle representing the heavens flows into the lower one belonging to the earth.”  Evelyn Frances Derry

In Waldorf schools around the world, the celebration of seasonal festivals renews our awareness of the rhythms of the year and fosters the children’s relationship to the world into which they grow. The festival events are accomplished through the efforts of teachers, parents, and the children and are considered essential in the calendar of the year.  Please put these dates on your planning calendar at the beginning of the year, as the children are expected to attend.

Parents are also welcome to attend the various all-school daytime assemblies which are held throughout the year, including Opening Day, Friday Morning Assemblies, and Closing Day.

Rose Ceremony is the opening ceremony on the first day of school. We greet all incoming first graders and honor our lead class, the 8th grade. It is a lovely morning to see everyone back together again.

Michaelmas - our autumn festival, is a festival of courage. The legend of Michael and the dragon inspires strength within us. From the bounty of nature, we gather the fruits of the harvest and store up light 
to guide us through the darkness of winter. Michael wields his sword of light that we might be inspired to face the inner and outer darkness with renewed strength of will and purpose. 


Halloween is a special event at Live Oak as we offer an alternative to the American version of trick or treat. Angel guides lead children through a lantern-lit Pumpkin Path. Along this path, they stop to visit stations

created by parents and friends and receive a treat or hear a story. This event is loved by parents and children and keeps the mysterious quality of All Hallow’s Eve. It is intended for young children through about fourth grade.

Some years we have a “Perilous Path” suitable for the older children.

Winter Festivals

"And the light shineth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not."

Between November and  February there are at least eight Christian festivals that have to do with light:  Martinmas, Advent, St. Nicholas' Day, St. Lucia's Day, Christmas, the Twelve Holy Nights, Epiphany and Candlemas.

It is no coincidence that there are so many in the darkest part of the year.  Winter is the night of the year - we want light to overcome our fear of the dark, to light our way out of the darkness.

The darkness also has a message for us that the light can make clear, but that often goes unheard in the hustle and bustle of the usual Christmas preparations.

Perhaps we have an inkling of this message in our hearts; perhaps we have heard something of it, somewhere, as if in a dream, but we do not understand it, or know what to do about it.

the Bushmen, oldest of all living peoples in Africa, have a way of working with dreams that trouble them, whose meaning is not clear.  They leave their beds and build a little fire in order to bring the dream out of the dark and cold, to make it warm and alive. 

They say that the fire brings light out of the darkness of the dream, and helps them learn its meaning. 

When we celebrate these festivals - in the candles we light, the songs we sing, and the warmth we share with family, friends and strangers - we are lighting fires of understanding that will help all of us to hear and

know the true message of Christmas.

NOTE:  The suggestions for celebrating the festivals in the following are just that:  suggestions.  Please accept them in that spirit - take from them what suits you, leave what doesn't, add to them as you wish.

From Rudolf Steiner...

There are many ways of celebrating Advent.  Many families make an Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent with fresh evergreens.  Four candles are placed in the wreath; on the first Sunday, and during the following week,
 they light one candle.  On the second Sunday, two candles, and so on.  On each Sunday we can read an apropriate passage from the Bible.  Some people hand up their Advent wreaths with red ribbon; we put ours on our special table.
 Behind it we hang a picture of the Annunciation, with a deep blue cloth behind it, covered with stars.  Around the Advent wreath, we build a sort of garden in which, on Christmas Eve, we will set up our manger scene. 
The first week of Advent we set out crystals and stones - some of them make a path for Mary and Joseph to travel by.
The second week we add plants in pots, dried flowers, etc.;the third week, wax or wooden figures of animals; and the fourth week, Mary and Joseph begin travelling down the path, a little each day, until they reach the stable.

The different stones, plants, animals, etc., can be brought b y Mother Mary, as part of the story Mary's Journey to the Stars.  She could be a soft, blue-clad doll who appears in various parts of the house, each morning - under her or next

to her is a little treasure for the Advent garden.  We can also make a Christ Child out of soft wool, sleeping on a cloud supported by angels, up above the table.  Every day or so the Child moves down closer to the "earth". 

On Christmas Eve, the Advent wreath vanishes, and the manger scene remains for the twelve Holy Nights.

Each night during Advent we first turn out all the lights in the house.  then we gather around the wreath.  We light the candle(s) with a special verse, adding one each Sunday. 

Then we read a story appropriate to the season (Mary's Little Donkey, for instance) and sing one or more Advent carols.  After that we each light a candle of our own and travel through the house, singing, till the children reach their beds.

There is also the tradition of the Advent calendar.  It has 24 doors or windows, one of which is opened each day during Advent.  Calendars can be purchased or made at home, and may include a tiny gift for each day.

Advent is a wonderful time for making gifts and decorations at home.  It is also a time to help others - one custom allows children to put one straw in the Christ Child's manger for every good deed they perform. 

Other people like to imitate St. Nicholas or Kris Kringle and secretly do something kind or helpful - setting the table or folding the clothes when no one is looking, delivering anonymous gifts and treats.

At Martinmas time, we make and light lanterns to carry them into the wintry darkness. This festival of light leads into Advent and on to Christmas. This event is celebrated primarily in the kindergarten as a Mother Earth Festival

and in the second grade on St. Martin’s Day.

Our Holiday Faire and Children’s Festival is a joyful event to celebrate family and friends. It is our longest running fair, one of our most successful fundraisers, and still offers the warmest holiday cheer.

We gather on the transformed school grounds to dip beeswax candles and to create beautiful handcrafted gifts. We enjoy musical entertainment, puppet plays, strolling among the craft booths of artisans, and feasting together.

We have a Magical Children’s Store set up only for young shoppers, where they can choose gifts for relatives and friends. It even has gift wrapping at no cost.

Advent celebrates a turning point when darker and shorter days become ever more illuminated by candlelight. We experience a mood of anticipation, preparation, and waiting.

In walking the spiral of the Advent garden, the children receive the light for their own candles. All of their candles together light up the darkness as we sing with full hearts.

There are many ways of celebrating Advent.  Many families make an Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent with fresh evergreens.  Four candles are placed in the wreath; on the first Sunday, and during the following week,

they light one candle.  On the second Sunday, two candles, and so on. 

St Nicholas - visits the campus and makes a special visit to our Early Childhood Village.

From Rudolf Steiner: 

December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas, celebrated in many European countries, and getting renewed interest here in the United States.  Historically, St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor, around the year 325 A.D.

Many miraculous stories are told about him; he is the patron saint of children.  In Europe, many children receive their "Christmas" gifts on St. Nicholas Day.  In some places St. Nicholas travels from house to house with his helper

"Black Peter" or "Rupert", who carries coals or twigs for naughty children, and the sack full of presents.  In other places children put out their shoes the night before with straw or carrots for St. Nicholas' horse or donkey, hoping the

saint will leave them a gift in the morning.  (We also put out cookies and milk for the saint and Rupert.)

Santa Lucia   - visits each class on December 13th led by the sixth grade class to deliver traditional Lucia buns to the children.  

Lucia of Syracuse was an early Christian martyr who died in 304 A.D.  In Sweden the Christmas celebrations begin with her day, December 13.  According to legend, Saint Lucia appeared during a great famine delivering

food to the starving, her head encircled with light.  (There is a beautiful version of this legend by Selma Lagerlof, in The Christmas Story book.)

Traditionally, the daughter of the house wakes early and brings everyone a special breakfast in bed:   sweet saffron buns, coffee and cookies.  She is dressed in white, with a long red sash, and a wreath with lighted

candles on her head.  She sings "Santa Lucia" as she makes her rounds.  Other children may accompany her, wearing a conelike hat with a star on top. For those nevous of candles, a wreath with stars might be substituted,

and certainly each family can have its own favorite breakfast as a tradition. 

The Sheperds' Play 

Also before our Christmas break, the faculty of the Live Oak Waldorf School often performs the Shepherds' Play play for the children and the community at large.  A fun, whimsical, and lovely story of Mary, Joseph, the baby

Jesus and the three shepherds.  It is a message about the gifts we give to each other and the world.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 - January 5)

Most of us know the Twelve Days of Christmas only through the popular carol of that name.  However, even in pre-Christian times people felt this time of the year had special significance.  These twelve days made up the difference

between a lunar year (354 days) and a solar year (365 or 366 days).

They were dedicated to the gods - a time for reflections, when no heavy work was done; and were also seen as prophetic for the twelve months to come.  The dreams one dreamed each night were supposed to be significant;

some felt the weather of each day foretold the corresponding a month's weather; some tried to find an underlying "feeling" or "theme" to each of the holy days.  In 567 A.D. the Council of Tours proclaimed these twelve days from

Christmas to Epiphany a sacred, festive season for the Christian church; they have been celebrated in different ways, and to different degrees, ever since.

By celebrating the Holy Nights, as they are also called, we can take much of the pressure off Christmas Day.  The giving of presents can be spread out over the whole period, and even the shopping, if necessary, done

after the 25th, when all the sales are going.  We can send Christmas cards during this time, and still have them arrive before January 6th.  Traditionally, the Christmas tree doesn't appear until December 24, by which time

they are half price at the tree lots; it stays up through the holy nights and is taken down on Epiphany.  In this way Crhistmas is more than just one day crammed with an excess of gifts and food, after which one feels the

inevitable let-down.

One can have a little ceremony each night of the twelve, reading an appropriate story, singing carols, lighting the candles on the tree and around the nativity scene.  There can be a calendar similar to the Advent calendar,

with pictures representing the twelve months of the year, or for older children, events from the life of Christ (see Festivals With Children).  Some families give each night a theme, or special task, in which each member has

something to do - a poem night: when everyone must write a poem; a night when each does something for the others, etc.

There are two Holy Nights in particular that get special attention: New Year's Eve and Twelfth Night.  We can enjoy New Year's Eve as one of the Holy Nights instead of "celebrating" it in the ordinary way.  Some of my fondest

memories are of gatherings with friends for caroling, storytelling, a New Year's Eve Pot-luck Supper, and the much-anticipated telling of fortunes for the coming year.  We did it by throwing lead:  melting lead fishing weights

over the gas stove and pouring the mosten lead into cold water, where it instantly hardened.  The shapes were always different, and from them our fortunes were determined - a flower shape might mean a year of blossoming,

a roof might mean a new home, etc.  Some people save their used candle ends and melt them down instead of lead.  Care should be taken in doing this with children.

On New year's Eve one also looks at the past.  Some families gather together and tell what they remember most about the past year:  what they most enjoyed, what their greatest difficulties were, what they learned

and what they accomplished.  If there are habits or personality traits one really want to be rid of, one can write each on a piece of paper, and then, with a short ceremony, throw them in the fire.

On Twelfth Night we prepare for the coming of the Three Kings - we put out our shoes again, with a snack for the three Kings and their camels.  We can also bake a Three-King's cake, using a traditional recipe for a

Galette des Rois, or just any cake that we particularly like.  In this cake are hidden a pea and a bean.  Whoever finds the bean is king, and the pea is queen for the day of Epiphany (or sometimes just for Twelfth Night).

It has been traditional to have a special dinner also on this last night of Christmas.

As the days begin to lengthen after midwinter, the sun not only brightens the outer world, but lightens our inner selves as well.  As spring approaches, new life emerges, buds burst into blossom, the rebirth of life is upon us.

Epiphany (January 6th) commemorates two events in the life of Christ: the visit of the Three Kings who have followed the Star to Bethlehem, and the Baptism of Christ performed by St. John at the Jordan river.  As adults, we can

contemplate the Baptism as the true birth of Christ; with children we concentrate on the Three Kings.

The shoes put out on Twelfth Night may have three gifts, one from each king, inside them next morning - little gifts, probably; such as, fruit and nuts, something golden, something with a wonderful scent.  And the manger scene

has changed: the shepherds have returned to their flocks; Mary now wears a golden crown and is holding the Christ Child in her arms.  The Star, large and bright appears over the stable.  The Christmas tree and other decorations

have vanished, put away by Christmas elves in the night.

In the evening, families gather around the manger scene, lit by candles.  Perhaps there are star cookies for a snack while someone tells the old Russian story of Baboushka (see Festivals, Family and Food or the Christmas Story Book).

We read from the Bible about the Three Kings, and sing "We Three Kings: and other appropriate carols.

After Epiphany the Kings can gradually return to their homes, travelling through the house; Mary and Joseph travel to Egypt, also through the house.  After a week or so, we can put away the manger scene and replace it with a picture

of St. Christopher, who also searched through the world for the Highest, and tell the children his story.

Our Spring Childern's Faire occurs each spring, with crafts, face painting, and activities for children. This faire is created and presented by eighth grade students for the younger children.

At the May Faire, the whole community celebrates spring with crafts and activities, including a traditional Maypole, around which the children dance to lively music.

The Pentathlon is held the second week in May. The 5th grade class invites local northern California Waldorf Schools to join them in a reenactment of the Greek games.


 Grandparents’ Day brings grandparents and special friends to Live Oak to be honored and to experience the many gifts of our children.

On the last day of school, the Rose Ceremony  is held and the 1st graders lead the way as we say goodbye to our 8th grade class.

The rites of spring give way to the sleepy heat of summer. School is dismissed and quickly fades into our memory. A festival families can celebrate in summer is St. John’s Tide (June 24), a celebration of the sun and the ripening

of the earth.

But as always, September returns and the cycle begins anew with Michael’s message: “Awaken to the coming of winter, and in harvest time rejoice.”  Year after year, both children and adults gain strength by reconnecting to these

cycles of nature. Although modern life tends to corrupt, dilute, and forget these natural cycles, we have this opportunity to recognize them once more. Year in, year out, the community gains strength, finding in the festivals new ways

of meeting, of celebrating, and of sharing.

 Details of Festivals Follow:                                                                                                                     
What is Michaelmas? 

The festivals, the seasons of the year, are the keystones around which the yearly rhythm weaves.  During the school year, the autumn festival of Michaelmas is the first of these festivals that we celebrate together.

  The children learn verses, sing songs, and hear stories that connect them with the strength and light that St. Michael brings to confront and tame the dragon.  As a community festival, can we adults find value in

these simple, archetypal stories?

We can take the picture of St. Michael subduing the dragon on one level, as a guide for the human being in our struggles to overcome our lower natures.  To shine in the freedom of our true human individuality,

we must overcome our hindrances – worries, fears, criticisms, etc.

This fall festival, as the word itself indicates, is celebrated as the world of nature enters its sleep period of winter.  In the plant world much is dying, in the animal world much is going to sleep.  We human beings

cannot follow into darkness and dying with nature:  we are challenged to bring the light within us to kindle our thinking and to bring courage and warmth to all our activities of autumn and winter.