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Bringing Spirit Into Your Seasonal Celebrations

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about marking seasonal transitions in your family after I had written a letter to my friend about the same. She and I are both leading our children through Waldorf inspired homeschooling and family life but neither of us have any particular religious leaning and we both have struggled with the role of festivals, as most of the festivals typically celebrated by the Waldorf community seem Christian based. Even those celebrated with mass appeal (Christmas, Easter, etc) come from a Christian stand point. So, why celebrate them at all, if you can’t relate? Or celebrate them in purely a nature based way. You could do this, and believe me I found this tempting, but I think if we do that we miss all that these festivities have to offer.
I have always had the philosophy that life is worth celebrating and these celebrations need to serve as the cornerstones of our year. Grace, of the blog ‘Uncommon Grace‘ writes “If there is one thing that I would like to share with any young family just finding its way, it’s this: seek celebration, and embrace it. You will be blessed many times over.” And I wholeheartedly agree! But how are we to relate to any of them? For me, the most important to celebrate are those that highlight essential elements of the human spirit and help to align our spirits to the natural and cosmic world.

With my children we are taking them one by one, not all, at least not all at once. And feeling out how they pertain to us and how they can enrich our lives. I am also reexamining many that we have taken for granted over the years and celebrated in ways typical to our culture.  Last winter we started with St Lucia Day, St. Nicholas Day and the Winter Solstice. You can find my reflections on putting spirit and sacredness back into our celebrations here. I didn’t want to celebrate these days with the focus of materialism,  but wanted to truly emphasize the reason for celebration. If you follow the links for each day you can read how we brought meaning into them for ourselves. St. Lucia can remind us all to be a shining light in the world and the giving spirit of St. Nicholas is something we all should foster in ourselves. What lives to celebrate and emulate!

This week we are joining in Michaelmas celebrations for the first time. This festival really speaks to me. It focuses on taming or slaying our inner dragons and gearing up our courage and strength as we proceed into the dark of the year. The archetype figure associated with Michaelmas is, of course, Michael, the archangel responsible for throwing Lucifer into hell and is usually portrayed carrying a sword and slaying a dragon. “He is the Angel of Courage, the Angel of the Fight Against Evil.” But, it is not necessary to view Michael in literal terms. He is a representation of basic human qualities that each of us must reach deep into ourselves and find in our time of need, in this time of coming darkness.

In our home we focusing our homeschooling activities around Michaelmas this week, learning songs, telling the stories of George and the Dragon, Story of the Star Children and *The Story of the Harvest Loaf. Our crafting is also Michaelmas themed. I don’t expect my small children to fully be able to grasp the significance of this festival, or any of them, but we start slowly and are laying a foundation of celebration and seeking what is holy and sacred in life. In time, as they grow, the meaning will come and, I believe, will enrich and nourish their souls.

Below you will find resources that may help you further understand and incorporate more festivals and celebrations into your own life.

Festivals General

*All Year Round– A book filled with seasonal stories, activities, crafts, poems and recipes.

Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: Do the Festivals have a Future?– Article

Festivals– Understanding how the festivals relate to us and the changing seasons.

The Inner Year– The soul’s calender of enlightenment, healing and creativity

Festivals, Family and Food–  Another book of seasonal stories, activities, crafts, poems and recipes.

Michaelmas (articles)

Michaelmas- The Soul’s Season of Dragons and Courage

Michealmas Is Coming!

Celebrating Michaelmas

Michaelmas Thoughts on “The festival of Human Becoming”

Julie Hunter is a single mama raising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.

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Celebrating Santa Lucia Day

Lo, on our theshold there,
White-clad, lights in her hair.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

I must make an upfront disclaimer–I am not Scandanavian, never celebrated Santa Lucia Day as a child, and have no fond memories or connections to this tradition. But the year Mara was turning three, I was captured by this beautiful tradition, and we have celebrated Lucy ever since.

There are many versions of Lucy’s story, but the one that resonnates with me is one that I created for my homeschool group some years ago. 

In our story, a small village on the Swedish coast huddled cold and hungry in the middle of winter. Food was quickly running out, as there had been a bad harvest that year. All of the villagers gathered and shared what they had, but even that was running low. The people despaired–would they have enough food to last until springtime? The days grew darker and darker until one night, it seemed as if the sun would never come back at all. The wise women in the village gathered and sent their prayers to Freya, the Scandanavian goddess of hearth, sun and war, that the sun would return and food would be found. As the village prayed through the longest night of the year, watchers on the shore saw a light appear in the water. What could the glowing on the water be? No one knew. The villagers lit a fire on the shore so that they could see. The light in the water grew brighter and brighter, until they could see that it was a woman with a crown of candles on her head, standing in the prow of a boat that was heading toward the shore. The villagers called out to the boat, and it landed on their shore, full of Italian sailors carrying a boat load of food. “What happened to the woman in the boat?” the villagers asked? The sialors had no idea what the villagers were talking about–but upon hearing the description of the woman, they knew that the villagers had seen their saint, Santa Lucia. The sailors unloaded food from the boat, and the village celebrated, knowing that they would survive the winter.

This week, we will make our Lussekatter, the saffron buns that Lucy carries. The cookies look like eyes (the Italian saint tore out her own eyes–gotta love the lives of saints!), but we like the idea that they are a reflection of Freya’s cats that pull her chariot across the sky. Here’s our recipe for Lucy’s Cats, gleaned from a long-forgotten internet source years and years ago:

1 packet yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
saffron threads (or powdered saffron, about 1/4 tsp.)
4 cups (about 400 grams) all purpose flour
beaten egg (for brushing)
raisins or dried cranberries or currants

Dissolve yeast in warm water (I like to add a bit of honey, too, to make the yeast grow more quickly). Melt the butter, stir in milk, and then add this mixture to the yeast. Beat in the sugar, salt, egg, and saffron, blending until smooth. Add in the flour a cup at a time, and work until smooth. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Turn the dough out and knead. Pinch off small pieces of dough and twist into an “S” shape and place on baking sheet (I like to use a stone). Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 20 minutes in a warm kitchen. reheat oven to 425 degrees. Add raisins in the curves of the “S” and brush with beaten egg. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen of Lucy’s Cats.

On Saturday morning, Mara will awaken before us all, come down and make the coffee, load a tray with cats, and bring it to Dave and I in bed. She has a garland, but we don’t light the candles on her head–just a bit tricky getting up the stairs! But we will light the garland as it sits on the table, and we’ll all sing Santa Lucia:

Nightly, go heavy hearts
Round farm and steading
On earth, where sun departs,
shadows are spreading.
Then on our darkest night,
Comes with her shining light
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
Then on our darkest night,
Comes with her shining light
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Night-darkling, huge and still.
Hark, something’s stirring!
In all our silent rooms,
Wingbeats are whisp’ring!
Stands on our threshold there,
White clad, lights in her hair,
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
Stands on our threshold there,
White clad, lights in her hair,
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

“Darkness shall fly away
Through earthly portals!”
She brings such wonderful
words to us mortals!
“Daylight, again renewed,
will rise, all rosy-hued!”
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
“Daylight, again renewed,
will rise, all rosy-hued!”
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

Image credits:
Needlefelted Saint Lucia by Haddy2Dogs
Santa Lucia stuffed doll by FaerieRebecca