There's something extra special and magical about Advent season and there are also a myriad of ways to celebrate it with intention and in a way that honors your family's own systems of belief and seasonal rhythms.
Advent begins on the first Sunday of December and lasts through the entire month of December up until Christmas. Although rooted in Christian traditions, Advent contains universal themes of lighting the darkness, looking within, anticipation, and the inner and outer preparation for the holiday season. In the Northern Hemisphere, as Advent begins, we anticipate the light returning after the Solstice and the longer days to come. This is represented by lighting candles each week. This light is also shared with others and extended outward as we cherish company, family, meals together, and the tradition of giving.
Observing this season with children gives them moments to savor the season of light and to mark the passing of the days as they march toward Christmas. Celebrating and creating rituals for Advent gives children quiet moments to pause and ways to connect throughout this hopeful season. Here are a few ways to bring Advent to life in a Waldorf way that will create memories and mark this special time.
Setting the Scene by Creating an Advent Nature Table
Many families begin this season by adding additional Advent elements to their nature table. For example, add seasonal items from nature like evergreen boughs, berries, and other found natural items and then incorporate special objects that represent this time of year for your family. This grounding practice sets the stage for the star of the Advent show, the Advent ring or wreath.
There are a few versions of this centerpiece, some have four holes to place a candle in each week, while others have a hole for every day. The holes can be filled with treasured Ostheimer decorations or filled with crystals and small natural elements. With each lighting of the candle, you may choose to sing a song or say a verse. Each week of Advent represents a different theme and so as the season progresses, the display changes as do the amount of candles on the ring.
The following verse from Rudoph Steiner illustrates the weekly progression of Advent:
However you choose to represent these four kingdoms is up to you and your family but each week your display will change ending with the human element. At this point, you can add figures from the Holy Family. If you choose to add a candle to each week, by the fourth week, you will have an abundance of light and the table will be filled with beautiful objects that all carry a special meaning.
Marking the Time with an Advent Calendar
A popular way to mark the passing days and to add a bit of fun and magic to each one is to use an Advent calendar with your children. These daily reminders are a great way for children who can’t yet tell time or read a calendar to begin to understand how many days are left until the very exciting day of Christmas. This concept is hard for little ones to conceptualize but seeing the open doors on an Advent calendar or the empty pockets, helps give them a concrete visual of how much longer they have to wait.
You can place your Advent calendar near the Advent table and incorporate the moment of opening each day’s gift or 'door' into your display. Some Advent calendars open up to show a beautiful image while others have a space to tuck in a gift that may come from parents or a house gnome. We have a lovely tutorial on making a felt advent calendar on the Moon Child Blog for those who want an enduring calendar that can be customized and pulled out year after year.
Larger Advent Celebrations- The Winter Garden or Garden of Light
Celebrating Advent with community is a beautiful way to mark the season and connect with loved ones who add light to our lives. One favorite Waldorf tradition is the Advent Spiral, also known as the Winter Garden or Garden of Light. This tradition is often held at Waldorf schools but it can be adapted for smaller groups and families.
Ahead of the event, the room is filled with a large spiral made out of evergreen branches which are placed on the floor. At the center of the spiral is one lit pillar candle. While quiet music plays, children file in one by one to walk the spiral. As they enter, their teacher hands them an unlit candle nested in an apple. Then they journey through the spiral all the way to the very center where they light their candle from the central pillar candle. After they light their candle, they carefully walk back through the spiral and choose a spot next to the evergreen spiral to set down their candle. With each child’s lit candle, the room becomes brighter and brighter until the final candle is placed. At this point, families usually sing carols. This festival can also be done outside with a small or large group of friends and family. As with any event that uses candles or fire, make sure to have buckets of water available and make sure that children’s hair is tied back to ensure extra safety.
All of these rituals help to mark this time of year in a way that gives extra meaning to the season. Celebrating Advent with intention asks us to call upon our inner light and bring it out into the world with love and joy so that it radiates to those around us! We wish you the best for this season of light and reflection!
We hope your holiday is filled with engaging fun and heaps of family laughter and love, and a few crafternoons spent together. Share your play, crafts, reading, learning or anything magical with us on Instagram @bellalunatoys and use our hashtag #bellalunatoys for a chance to be featured on our feed or stories. Happy crafting!