Monday, December 28, 2020

Stories & Traditions for the Winter Solstice and the Advent Spiral

Obviously, the Winter Solstice is an incredibly ancient festival, so I will just share here some modern notes.

Building and Walking the Spiral as a Tradition for Solstice

In Waldorf schools, the Solstice is often tied in with building and walking the Spiral, which we've done as an Early Childhood celebration. In 2018 we had to move the spiral indoors because of cold rain, but it was still quite lovely to have a spiral of greenery on the library floor! I remember that we all stood and stared at it in the darkness! No one wanted to leave; it was so beautiful. Finally, we went upstairs and had our potluck dinner.

full notes are in my previous blog posts:

Walking the Advent Spiral ECE (2018)

ECE Planning for December (2019)

In 2019 another Early Childhood family hosted the spiral outdoors at their house, so I don't have photos of that. Again, we celebrated with a potluck dinner. We also made gingerbread houses, and I read Astrid Lindgren's The Tomten to the children before we went outside to walk the spiral. That story is so fun because it is lovely and cozy, and the circle of children got closer and closer as I read to them. By the end they were practically all in my lap!

This year, in 2020, we are not doing any kind of group celebrations so Zac and I just built a little spiral.

A Story for the Winter Solstice

For a Solstice story, I think it is really important to choose a book that isn't about science and isn't about history but that is about magic and mystery. The most beautiful story is The Solstice Badger by Robin McFadden. My favorite line is "As it was then, when the world was young, so it is today: The seasons turn on the lynchpin of a friendship." It is purely imaginative and Zac (age 5 1/2) was completely smitten. He wanted to hear it over and over. I would suggest it over any other!

The Solstice Badger

by Robin McFadden

Holztiger Badger

Leaving Gifts for the Animals

This story includes something about leaving gifts for the animals, so we went back to our spiral later and added all sorts of gifts to it on Christmas Eve, which was an especially cold night here. We added apples, popcorn, fresh parsley, raw sunflower seeds, and little quail eggs. The eggs, of course, were for Jimmy Skunk. It was a wonderful way to decorate the spiral!

In Suzanne Down's book Old Gnome Through the Year: Twelve Delightful Early Childhood Tales for Teachers and Parents, the December story is "Old Gnome's Advent Time" on page 42. In this story, Old Gnome spreads pine boughs by his front door and in around the tree roots, and creates a feast of apple slices, orange slices, star-shaped sunflower seed biscuits, and apple and cinnamon tea for his friends in the forest.

Another story about food for the animals is Eve Bunting's Night Tree, which is specifically about a family's tradition of decorating an evergreen tree in the forest with popcorn chains, apples, tangerines, balls of sunflower seeds and pressed millet and honey, nuts, and breadcrumbs every Christmas Eve.

The Advent Spiral as a Christian Celebration

As far as an Advent Spiral story, in Suzanne's book of Christmas Tales for Young Children, "The Magical Elf Garden" on page 6 describes what happens when a little boy unexpectedly comes upon the elves' Advent Spiral celebration! And they sing together the song he learned at school. This story Suzanne has posted on her blog for free; you can find it here.

In Waldorf schools, the traditional song to sing at the Advent Spiral celebration is called "Over stars is Mary wandering," and this is the song they sing in the story. I searched and searched for the words and the music, and here are some links I found. The tune was particularly hard to locate; luckily, Susan Bruck just uploaded a video on December 17th of this year:


    Over stars is Mary wandering;
    In her mantle's flowing folds,
    Radiant threads of starlight woven
    For the little child she holds.
    Throngs of stars behold her passing,
    All the world is filled with light
    With her hands she weaves and gathers
    Blessings for the first Christmas night.


    start at 1:35 for the song

In her video, Susan recommends the series of books by Wynstones Press for families who are just getting started with Waldorf in Early Childhood.

I also discovered, in my searching for the tune, an anthroposophical article on how the Waldorf kinderlyre was invented by Edmund Pracht, and describing in detail the night the first one was built on October 6, 1926 by W. Lothar Gärtner from Pracht's design. The article is How the Lyre Came Down from Heaven Just in Time! by Christof-Andreas Lindenberg. The song about Mary is attributed to Pracht, which is why it popped up in my search.

I also found an article at the Online Waldorf Library called The Advent Garden, which is an accounting of how this Advent Spiral tradition began to be celebrated in Waldorf schools and early people who were a part of it! It is very interesting how one little idea from one person can have so much impact and spread so far over the years!

Lastly, if you feel like you want an all-in-one source of ideas, Christel Dhom wrote a detailed book, published by Floris Press, called The Advent Craft and Activity Book: Stories, crafts, recipes and poems for the Christmas season.

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