The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas that is observed by most Christians in preparation for the celebration of Christmas Day. In Waldorf homes, Advent is recognized by representing the kingdoms of our planet each Sunday:
The first Sunday of Advent we recognize minerals and stones.
The second Sunday of Advent we recognize the plant kingdom.
The third Sunday of Advent we recognize the animal kingdom.
The fourth and last Sunday of Advent we recognize humankind.
We have so many beautiful ways to share with you on how to bring this sacred festival into your home or school in our publications:
Celebrated on December 6th (December 5th elsewhere) in many European countries to honor the Christian saint as the bringer of gifts. Boys would sometimes dress as bishops to give to the poor. Many children would wait for treats to be left under their pillows or shoes that were left out. In Waldorf homes and schools, this celebration continues with children leaving their shoes out the eve before (December 5th) to wake to small treats inside including chocolate, coins, fruits, nuts and sometimes a small toy.
The Feast of St. Lucia or Santa Lucia is a festival of light, as are many of the celebrations this time of year. In some countries she is represented as a lady in a white dress with a wreath of candles in her hair. Many celebrate this special day by having the oldest daughter in the family wear a wreath in her hair and offer sweet buns or cookies to others. Boys also share a role by wearing star boy caps or dressing as St. Stephen. The procession is said to help all move forward with light into the deep, dark winter days ahead.
In my Kindergarten class, we often made St. Lucy Buns as well as crowns and star boy hats for the children and had a walk around our playground and school. In the Little Acorn Learning guides we offer complete instructions for these activities as well as some more unique ideas such as planting indoor wheat for St. Lucia Day.
This beautiful Jewish festival is often called the Festival of Lights. It is observed to recognize the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem. Often a menorah will be lit each evening for eight nights to represent the rededication of the Jewish faith and to spread the light to future generations. A fun game played during this time is the spinning of a dreidel and sometimes small gifts will be shared each of the eight days of spiritual acknowledgement. While my family is not Jewish, I always recognized this special festival in my classroom as the light of hope reaches beyond all faiths and backgrounds.
Our Winter Festivals Book includes a beautiful tutorial on making a menorah with found nature items, a Star of David banner, as well as a paper menorah. We also have recipes and songs to share.
The Winter Solstice/Yule, December 21st
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. This day marks the winter season which continues until the Spring Equinox. Yule was celebrated before the conversion to Christianity in many cultures and this ancient festival still holds strong roots in all we see in the Winter Solstice as well as Christmastime.
Celebrating the solstice is a magical time in Waldorf homes and schools. All of our books bring this warming festival into the lives of your children with warm recipes, songs, crafts and meditations. Creating a Yule Log was always a favorite in my classroom.
Christmas Day, December 25th
The day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in many Christian faiths (Eastern Orthodox faiths celebrate on January 7th). The four Sundays of Advent lead up to this sacred day.
In our home we have a beautiful tradition of an Advent Spiral calendar as well as other advent traditions such a nativity, advent wreath, mistletoe and Christmas tree. Culturally on this day, many children wake up to gifts from Santa Claus who travels the world to bring joy to those who believe. The tradition of Santa Claus stems from the long rooted tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas, the saint of giving. Many non-Christians still enjoy decorating and sharing gifts this time of year to share love and light with one another.
Which of these December festivals do you celebrate? We hope we have inspired you to weave your own family traditions and customs into your winter celebrations and also try incorporating new ideas from some of the examples above.