Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our Festival Year

Festivals play a large role in the Waldorf school year and we try to infuse that into our little Waldorf-inspired homeschool.  However, grafting many of the Waldorf festivals into our lives simply didn't work for me, so I considered the special days that we do celebrate and built our festival year around those.  As home learners we don't have to skip the really big holidays because we already celebrate those together as a family.

September:  The Autumnal Equinox.  While we may not have the flashy fall that some climates do, the arrival of autumn is just as heralded in our home.  It brings with it the breaking of the heat and some of our best outdoor months.  As we come into the time of balance between day and night we also seek balance and give up some of the hedonistic pleasures of summer for the discipline of lessons.

October:  October brings us Freethought Day as well as Halloween.  Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, not because it is a candy fest but because it is a time for us to be with our homeschool community.  We gather together for a potluck meal, take the children out, and then return home to share the rest of the evening.  The children look forward to Halloween more than any other festival, planning costumes months in advance and admiring what everyone has done.

November:  Thanksgiving is our harvest festival.  We cook nearly every year and open our home to friends and family; if we miss a year it simply feels wrong.

December:  We celebrate Christmas as our big December holiday, spending the month in preparation by crafting, baking, and cooking.  Each year I create an Advent calendar for us that is filled with activities large and small.  But we also create meaning and ritual around the Winter Solstice.  I feel a deep connection with all of humanity, past and present, as we observe the natural phenomenon of the solstice and share the jubilation at the return of the sun.  As the year comes to a close we celebrate its end together as a family.

January:  We begin by celebrating the arrival of the New Year.  Then, one of us completes a trip around the sun.  Growing up nothing was more important than my own sun day and I honor the excitement my children have by creating a festival just for each of them.

February:  February is a month of quiet celebration for us; I do think that it makes what can be a wet and dreary month more tolerable.  We have Imbolc or St. Brigid's Day, Darwin Day, and Valentine's Day (another celebration with our homeschool community).  We also celebrate Pancake Day either this month or next, which is one of the only festivals I pulled from a Waldorf book that took root in my family.

March:  March brings us the Spring Equinox, another time of balance.

April:  Two of us complete our annual trips around the sun this month.  One is celebrated with great fanfare, the other a little more quietly.  We also celebrate Earth Day, and Easter if it occurs this month.

May:  We have a tradition of surprising friends with little anonymous treats on May Day, something I remember from my own youth.  We also celebrate the National Day of Reason.

June:  Another trip around the sun for a special someone, and then we celebrate the Summer Solstice in all its glory.

I wanted to post this because I think that Waldorf homeschoolers sometimes feel that they are simply too busy with blocks and home life to bring in all the Waldorf festivals.  To me, the point of the festivals isn't to add in things which make more work for you, but to find the things that add sparkle to your year and allow those times to build, peak, and ebb away.  It has served as a way for my boys to feel the fullness of the year, and to understand the difference between commonplace and special.  All-you-can-eat candy for one evening of the year (Halloween) is very special, but if we were to have candy daily or even weekly it would become ordinary and our festival would have less meaning.

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