Festivals - Where Community & Curriculum Combine
Festivals are a vital part of our school life and the curriculum incorporates thematic subject matter in lesson plans and class activities with the rich history and traditions demonstrated in our festivals and assemblies. These ceremonies, holidays and performances invite our extended community (of parents, relatives, neighbors and friends of the school) to gather to both witness the students in public performances and to participate in communal rituals, plays and celebrations. Many of our festivals are based on traditional holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving & Martin Luther King Jr. Day Assemblies), while others are specific to Waldorf pedagogy (The Festival of Lights, The Rose Ceremony, & Lantern Walks) and others focus on themes or members of our school community (The May Fair, The Holiday Fair, Earth Day, Grandparents & Special Friends Day, Day of the Dead/All Soul's Day, & Santa Lucia). Waldorf festivals are celebratory and focus on signifigant markers of seasonal change (Winter Solstice, Harvest Festivals, & Spring Assembly) or signifigant values and virtues central to human development (The Festival of Michaelmas, Saint Nicholas Day, & Community Service Days).
The festival motifs are introduced in the classroom through storytelling, song, drama, movement, and decoration. Some of our festivals specifically focus on particular grade(s) while most are celebrated by the entire community in school-wide assemblies, student performances and entertaining fairs. It is the communal nature of the festivals that connect parents, faculty, staff, and alumni to the students for meaningful celebration and bonding of community ties.
Here are some of our significant festivals:
Michaelmas is a little-known festival in North America but it is a major celebration in Waldorf Schools world-wide. It takes place near the autumnal equinox when daylight grows shorter. The festival is named for the archangel Michael, known as a protector of humanity, who inspires qualities of courage, initiative and steadfastness. The elementary and high school students perform a parade and ritual re-enactment of Michael slaying the dragon and then participate in activities with the faculty that demonstrate a respect for nature through clean-up work and caretaking in local gardens, beaches, and blocks in the neighborhood.
Halloween is celebrated with a school-wide assembly of costumed merrymaking, singing, poetry recitals, and age-and theme-appropriate story-telling. Students wear costumes that follow central themes in their grade's curriculum (so 4th graders usually dress as the Norse Gods, while 2nd graders may be the animals who spoke with St. Francis of Assisi. One year the 6th grade class decided their costumes would all relate to the dangers and terrors of tooth decay!)
The communal nature of the festivals bonds parents, faculty, staff and alumni in community to the students in meaningful celebration of diverse cultures and ideas.
Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day is marked by an assembly for Grades 1-12 to honor and remember those relatives, friends and signifigant people in the student's lives who have passed away or who have left an influencial impression. This festival usually centers on a coming together for communal support, and honoring of individuals over the course of a shared meal in the school's auditorium.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in a school-wide assembly the morning before the holiday. Stories and songs reflecting on appreciation, and activities geared towards the goodwill of others are central to this event. A concurrent food drive is held through November & December to benefit the Ignatian Services Food Pantry.
The Winter Festival of Lights Season is composed of a weekly series of related events that begin in candle-lit silence to remind us of the light shining within each individual in the midst of the encroaching darkness of the season. Every few years during this festival, the faculty and friends of the school present one or more of three medieval plays. The Paradise Play, The Shepherds’ Play, and The Kings’ Play, These tell aspects of story of the the nativity, and the journey of the wise men.
Some classes and families join in the Winter Spiral/Garden of Light, a ritual procession through a spiral pathway of pine boughs leading to a lighted candle in the center.
Chanukah is a festival of light and many classes observe the Jewish rituals in school with story, song, and lighting the menorah.
The Spring Festival celebrates the return of lengthened daylight hours, the awakening of the growing season and a revitalization of the external natural environment.
We also celebrate our extended community members with Grandparents and Special Friends Day as well as many Music and Eurythmy Festivals. There is periodically a school-wide celebration of Earth Day. And finally young students practice Maypole dances and perform them at the May Fair, an open street festival celebrating the arrival of Spring with games, activities, music, food and fun for the whole community.
For demonstrations of the way these festivals are woven into the class curriculum, please see the Bulletin and Classroom Resources/Teacher Messageboards for samples of our lesson plans, schoolwork, and class planning.