Advent is observed the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas. If you aren’t christian, you may choose for your advent to lead up to Hannukah, Yule, Solstice, etc. Advent means “anticipation” so you might use this time to meditate on the season and its meaning to you. Advent celebrates the bringing of light or warmth into the dark. In a Waldorf home, you might find needle felted nativity scenes, a nature table, a depiction of Mary on her donkey, an advent spiral, or an advent wreath. You might find handmade beeswax candles, salt dough, and watercolor drawings.
You will almost always find an advent spiral in a Waldorf school or home, whether it be bought or handmade. Some may refer to it as an Advent Spiral, others will call it a Winter Solstice Spiral. There is no right or wrong way to make an advent spiral. We have made our advent spiral out of salt dough, which is a family tradition. Each day you will light a candle, or place an object on the spiral. You can do this for each day leading up to Christmas or the days leading up to winter solstice. You can use nature objects, marbles, or items representing the Waldorf Advent themes (more on this below.)
Winter Spiral Walk
In a Waldorf school or home, a large spiral of evergreen tree is laid out on the floor. This is sometimes referred to as the Winter Spiral Walk, or Advent Walk. There is a lit candle in the middle of the spiral, with gold stars leading up to it. Each child is given a candle inside of an apple. The children walk along the spiral and light their candle from the candle in the center. They are assigned a mineral, animal or plant which they represent. The child then places their lit candle on one of the gold stars. The spiral represents one of the most divine patterns in the universe, which is present in seashells, the galaxy, flowers, pinecones, etc. This is referred to as the divine ratio, or the golden ratio. The initial dark walk represents the seasons, and winters long nights until the return of light on winter solstice. The journey out of the spiral represents our inner light and journey. The apples represent planting the seeds in childhood, as caretakers and teachers nurture their growth.
In Waldorf tradition, nature tables are used to tell stories and nurture a connection between the home and the earth. During advent, you might choose a different theme for every week. The themes reflect gratitude for the different realms of our earth: stones and minerals, plants, the animal kingdom, and humankind. For example, crystals will be gathered and laid one week, and plants the next. You might tell stories revolving around your faith, or the moon cycles leading up to solstice.
Waldorf Advent Verse
The first light of Advent is the light of stones.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants.
Roots, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit by whom we live and grow.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.
Animals of farm, field, forest, air, and seas.
All await the birth in greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand.
The Winter Solstice is the first day of Winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, solstice lands on December 21 or 22. In the Southern Hemisphere, solstice lands on June 20 or 21. Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. After solstice, the days get longer and longer until summer solstice which is the longest day of the year. On winter solstice the earth is tilted as far away from the Sun as possible, which means the sun is as low as it can be in the sky. If you stand outside at noon, your shadow is longer than it will be all year. The word “solstice” means “sun stand still.” For a few days following solstice, the sun’s path remains the same, making it look as though the sun is standing still.
Sun Bread is a book read in many Waldorf classrooms and homes. The book celebrates Winter Solstice by baking Sun Bread. You can find our version of Sun Bread here.
Feburary 2nd is the halfway point in between winter solstice and spring equinox. You might also know this day as “Groundhog Day.” It’s a Waldorf tradition to make candles on Candlemas, typically made from beeswax. In Christianity, Candlemas celebrates the 40 days after Christ was born. Some might use this day to burn their Christmas trees, or put their decorations away. This day is also known as Imbolc, and has been celebrated in many ways for centuries. You can make a candle from a candle making kit like this, or you can make them at home using walnuts, orange peels, pinecones, apples, or anything you can think of!
Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas Day, or the Feast of Saint Nicholas, is observed on December 6th. This holiday has a rich history and is celebrating all around the world in different ways. Traditionally in Waldorf, Saint Nicholas comes to earth with his reindeer and leaves behind tangerines, apples, walnuts, hazelnuts, and sometimes toys or books. Children will leave out their shoes on the night of Saint Nicholas Day, and he will fill their shoes with coins or candies. Saint Nicholas is a patron saint of children who comes to remind them that the Child of Light is coming.