My kids go to a Waldorf-inspired preschool. Not because we send them there for childcare or because we both work, but because I got inspired by Waldorf philosophy and then Bubelah did, too. We felt our children needed to experience some time with other kids outside of playgroups, and so we settled on a Waldorf-inspired school, first for Little Buddy, and this year for Pumpkin. Both of my children have responded well to it – the environment is warm (for lack of a better word) and creative, and it’s provided them with some magical childhood moments.
One such moment was this Saturday, the Winter Spiral – basically an Advent ceremony. The single most important element in the Winter Spiral is the mood. It is supposed to be a quiet, dark, calm ceremony. The room is laid out like this: a large spiral created of pine greenery and interesting branches is decorated with pine cones and other seasonal natural items. In the center stands a large pillar candle, lit, on a stump. Outside of the spiral someone stands with a tray with one red apple per child. The apples need to have been cored and a small candle put into each. In turn, the kids stand up and take an apple with a lit candle from the person holding the tray. The room is dimly lit, and Christmas carols are being played on a harp or lyre.
Each child walks the spiral, slowly. The child approaches the candle in the center and lights their candle. Each child then turns back and finds a good place to put their candle amongst the greenery. Then they return to their seat. That’s really the whole ceremony – light a candle, place it, listen to some gentle Christmas music.
Now, I know this sounds a little new-age-y. There’s no educational purpose to it. But I’ll also add that it’s the first child-centric activity I’ve been to since I’ve had kids where ALL the adults listened to the request of the Waldorf teachers NOT to record the event with cameras; to keep crying babies or restless siblings out of the room; and to really respect an attempt to make a magic moment for the children.
In my opinion, it did. It was a beautiful moment in a quiet, small space, and the children seemed properly awed by the ceremonial nature of the event. It’s true – it’s a pagan-inspired ritual, it’s a gimmick, it’s a primitive recognition that the lifegiver Sun is at solstice and the year is at its darkest point. I get all that. I’m a rational person. But I think childhood can also be made of beautiful moments – even if invented – and removing the flash of lightbulbs and chatter of adults and babies and siblings can render a fun moment breathtaking.
So that was our Winter Spiral. As I said yesterday, I get a little frustrated with the consumerism surrounding this season, and so I’m positively predisposed to enjoy something non-electronic, non-consumerist and simply calm. I’m the target audience for this type of activity. But even if it’s simply a brief respite, it’s a welcome one, and something that most kids (and parents) should experience; that or something similar.