Every culture has a festival tradition - this is by no means a Waldorf phenomenon! But one thing that Waldorf education has done is recognize the importance of the festival to the spiritual growth of the child. In Waldorf education festivals are part of a holistic education that honors head, heart, and hands.
Festivals give your child a chance to celebrate the wonder of the seasons with a hands-on experience. They are a bridge between humanity and nature. Nature provides the bounty and we embrace it with feasting, crafting, decorating, singing, storytelling, gifting, and connecting with each other.
At home the important thing is to celebrate festivals that are meaningful to your family.
These could be the Waldorf festivals but they could be entirely different! Look to your own religious and cultural traditions, explore the ideas behind the Waldorf festivals, and make family traditions that truly speak to your own heart.
It would be easy to get carried away when planning seasonal celebrations for your family. Start with the ones that call to you the most - you can always add in more later. And for each festival, start with just a few traditions. Your children will remember what you did the year before and they will want you to do things the same way - so for your own sanity start small and build over time.
It is wonderful to have at least one festival connected with each season. So for example, if you are not busy in the autumn celebrating Michaelmas and Martinmas or Rosh Hoshanna and Sukkot then perhaps you create a Harvest festival, Apple Day, or Stone Soup dinner.
When you plan a festival, think of how your child can be included as an active participant. How can your child contribute to the food, the singing, the cleaning and decorating, the crafting and gifting, the setting up, and other preparations?
Also think of how you will make the festival relevant for your small child. What story will you tell? What songs will you sing?
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare each festival. A weekly rhythm for a festival is a wonderful thing, with each day leading up to it having a special task or activity. The story and songs could be repeated each day.
There are many wonderful resources out there to give you plenty of inspiration and ideas. Here are several:
Heaven on Earth (has a great chapter on planning simple seasonal festivals) Festivals Family and Food Celebrating Festivals with Children (traditional Waldorf festivals) Festivals Together: A Guide to Multicultural Celebration Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Traditions All Year Round (Christian festivals) The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays The Joy of Family Traditions
How to celebrate festivals:
1. Pick festivals that feel meaningful to you and that you want to include in your seasonal calendar year after year.
2. Keep your celebrations simple. Build on them year after year.
3. Involve your child in the preparations. Festivals are a wonderful chance to make decorations, freshen up the nature table, and cook or bake special treats together. You can tell a story for a few days leading up to the festival and learn new songs to sing! Consider taking a whole week to build up and enjoy a festival.
What are your favorite festivals? How do you celebrate them with your children?