The foundation of Waldorf education is the recognition of the wholeness and connection of humanity with all life. Rhythm and routine is present in all aspects of life and manifests through the recognition and observations of the changes in the seasons. Our school and family community festivals connect us with the year through rituals and celebrations. These events become opportunities for outward observation of nature’s seasonal changes, and they also bring us together as a community.
“Celebrating festivals can bring us consciously to what we all experience instinctively in our daily lives, the changing cycles of the seasons and of life itself. Through various festivals and rituals we acknowledge and celebrate our connection to and our responsibility toward each other and the world.” – By Marilyn Pelrme – Festivals
The following festival events occur each year; there may be slight changes in dates and times from year to year. Please check the school calendar for specific dates.
The first day of school at Sunrise School of Miami is filled with tradition and celebration. The traditional rose ceremony, which symbolically welcomes the first graders to the school by presenting them with a rose, given to them by the eighth grade class. The ceremony always takes place on the first day of the new school year, and the first graders begin by sitting with their Early Childhood teacher, cross a small bridge, meet their new teacher and to sit with the rest of the school. This marks the passage from early childhood, and the beginning of lifelong learning. It is symbolic – walking over the bridge to a new phase of their life. The eighth graders are honored to be able to welcome the first graders into the grade school.
After the ceremony, the first grade teacher will lead the students to begin their exciting journey with the rest of the classes following. While the rose ceremony marks the beginning of the school year, it ends with the these same first graders giving a rose to the eighth grade student that welcomed them. It is a tradition that comes full circle for the oldest and the youngest students.
Enrolling in an inspired Waldorf school for the first time may also mean a first encounter with the celebration of the festival of Michaelmas. It stands as one of the four corner posts of the yearly cycle of festivals. Just as autumn stands alongside winter, spring and summer, so Michaelmas completes the cycle of Christmas, Easter, and St. John’s Tide. The meaning of the festival year can be understood on a deeper and more significant level if we are able to view the whole of the earth as a living organism, a concept which was much more alive for humanity in ages past.
The image of St. Michael with his golden sword piercing the darkness wells up in us, giving us the courage to face the darkening earth. With autumn, the earth draws into herself and we also begin to draw into ourselves. Winter is the season of inner contemplation. When we look within ourselves, who knows what dragons we will find? The struggle of St. George and the dragon is also a powerful image at Michalelmas. There is not only courage needed to deal with the outer cold and darkness but also within ourselves courage is called for to shine light on those personal challenges we face as socially and morally maturing human beings. When the deeper, inner meaning of the festivals is contemplated, a nourishing and sustaining quality enables us to participate and enrich our own lives and the lives of our families and our community as well.
Michaelmas is our first festival of the year. The event is planned by the faculty and is held as close as possible to the date of September 29th – Michaelmas.
Martinmas (also known as the Lantern Festival)
From France comes the legend of Saint Martin, who as a young man passed under an archway in the city of Amiens and discovered a poor beggar huddled there. The man was nearly naked, shivering with cold, and had received no alms to assist him. On seeing him, the young Martin took his own cape from his shoulders, tore the garment in half and covered the poor man to warm him. This experience confirmed in him his devotion to all humankind regardless of their station in life.
St. Martin was known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who were previously in darkness. On the evening of Martinmas he is remembered in many European households with a festival of lanterns, carrying light throughout the darkened home and streets, singing of songs.
The Martinmas celebration is inspired by old customs honoring St. Martin. As the sun sets earlier and rises later, the world grows darker and the inner light of humankind wants to shine forth. Children and parents gather as the sun sets. Handmade lanterns, often decorated with stars, suns and moons, are lit as a symbol for the children of their own individual light. And our walk into the evening gives the kindergarten children and their families an experience of caring and sharing as we move toward the darkness of winter.
Winter is a time for quiet contemplation for what is to come during this time of the year. For many this is an inner reflection – Advent, from the Latin “to come,” is the period including the four Sundays just before Christmas. In the tradition of the Christian churches, one candle is lit each Sunday until the light of four candles heralds the birth of Christ. Yet, Advent and even the feast day we now celebrate as Christmas, have a far wider traditional context. For thousands of years before Christianity, the Egyptians celebrated the Festival of Osiris, the Celts and Druids held great festivals of fire and light, and the Jewish people celebrated Hanukkah. This holiday has had festival connotations of light and the sun, of the time when winter draws to its close and spring begins. Nearly all cultures have acknowledged the mystery of this moment. At the time of this winter festival, we can recognize that we too will ultimately triumph over the darkness in our lives. The celebration of the Winter Spiral can honor and revere the kingdoms of nature. In the first week, attention may be directed to the mineral kingdom. In the second week, respect may be focused on the plants. In the third week, appreciation may be given to the animal kingdom and respect for the human being is the culmination of the fourth week.
The Spiral, a Early Childhood and lower grades festival, is one of light, movement, and symbolic change. A spiral of greens is laid out and decorated with crystals, shells, plants, carved animals representing the kingdom of nature. Each child walks to the center, carrying an unlit candle, which is lit from the tall, brightly burning candle. Moving outward the child places the candle somewhere along the spiral pathway, bringing it to light. This passage reflects winter’s dark growing to a close and the renewed promise that spring’s light and life will begin again.
The Winter Spiral is also perhaps the most deeply moving community festival of the year. The children are reminded to honor the mood of quiet contemplation.
St. Nicholas Day
This is a European tradition in which Bishop Nicholas and his mute companion, Ruppert, visit the children. On the eve of December 5th, in many traditions, children place their shoes outside the door hoping St. Nicholas will leave a treat. Golden nuts, oranges and dates are left at the door as St. Nicholas and Ruppert make a visit to the Early Childhood and grade school. The children eagerly await the tap at the door from his wooden walking staff!
A second grade student, dressed in white as Santa Lucia and wearing a crown aglow with four candles, leads a procession of classmates. They visit Early Childhood and each of the grades classes singing ‘Santa Lucia’ and carry their light throughout the school. The second graders are busy for days before, baking cookies that they will share with their schoolmates, as the procession travels through the school.
Our May Day celebration gives the students the opportunity to share this festival with family and friends. The grade school children enjoy the tradition of dancing to music around the May Pole which is decorated with flowers and colored ribbons. All of the students sing traditional spring songs. In addition to the festive dancing and singing, community is further formed by sharing light refreshments.