Michaelmas is a little-known festival. We celebrate it because it epitomizes an important aspect of Waldorf education. The celebration of Michaelmas commemorates the archangel Michael, and the archetype he represents.
In the Old Testament, Daniel names Michael as leader of the Israelites. In the Book of Revelations, Michael battles the dragon. This archetype has appeared in the mythology of many cultures for many centuries. Ancient Oriental writings describe Indra. The ancient Babylonians tell of Marduk, who slew Tiamat the dragon and created heaven and earth from his body. There are many examples of human beings acting out of a Michaelic impulse – the Greek myth of Perseus, the English St. George and the American legend of John Henry, to name a few. The Michaelic archetype is one who overcomes or transforms evil through intelligence, courage, and strength. Michael displays the activity that is the essence of the human being —self development. We, as human beings, have the possibility of personal transformation. We all have our own dragons, our own lower, less noble aspects. Our egotism, greed and selfishness can be overcome as we evolve as individuals. Michaelmas is a reminder of this process of the becoming human being as we strive toward our full human potential.
Michaelmas falls midway between the northern hemisphere’s summer and winter solstices, during the harvest season. The iron-filled fruits of nature ripen as the days grow shorter and the plant world seems to die. As the sunlight decreases, can we keep our inner light alive, and harvest the fruits and gifts of our own and each other’s development?
Waldorf education echoes the essence of Michaelmas. Each and every one of us has a gift to bring to the world. Can we learn to recognize and have interest in each other’s gifts, and encourage each other toward our full potential? Being human is not merely physical qualities related to skin and bones, but is essentially the process of individual spiritual transformation leading humanity toward its future evolution. Overcoming our antipathy and self-centeredness, and meeting each human being with interest and recognition as a fellow human being: this is what Michaelmas celebrates. It is a festival of what is truly human. Our school celebrates Michaelmas with a “field day” at school, which features a variety of fun and challenging activities for students and an annual Saturday picnic and pageant including the entire school community.
Advent is celebrated in December. As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, there is a growing mood of outer sleepiness in the world. Through stories, poems, and their own observation of nature, our children experience a settling down, a feeling of being blanketed for winter. Advent balances the darkness and sleepiness with expectation and anticipation. It is a time of moving through the darkness toward the yearly “rebirth” of the light, when the days again begin to grow longer. Many religious and cultural festivals of light are celebrated during this season, among them Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Christmas.
Kindergarten, first, and second grade children celebrate Advent with a walk in the Advent Garden. This brings the experience of moving from darkness to light to the children in a simple way. Each child walks to the center of an unlighted spiral path of evergreens, carrying a candle which is then lighted from the burning candle in the center of the spiral and placed down along the path on the walk back out of the spiral. The festival begins in darkness and ends brightly lit by the many candles.
Recently, I attended Grandparent’s Day and visited my grandchildren's classrooms.
Grandparents and Grandfriends Day
Every spring the school invites all the grandparents and grandfriends of our students at school participate in an event created especially for them one day before our annual May Fair. Traditionally, grandparents and grandfriends are given special presentations by faculty and children, a chance to visit their grandchild’s classroom, and an opportunity to watch the sixth grade practice the Maypole dance. The day ends with a festive luncheon.
We celebrate May Day on the first Saturday in May with our annual May Fair and traditional Maypole Dance featuring our Sixth Grade. The Seventh Grade provides music for the dance, and we invite musical members of our community to join them. The May Fair includes craft and other activities for children, music, food, and vendors.