Advent, Advent, a candle burns…

I’m finding that the new holidays I celebrate with my kids are my favorite ones; when festivals and ceremonies are created, they can be made with thought and love and without sugary treats and material gifts.

This is the second year I’ve participated in a Waldorf-style Advent celebration and I think I’ll have to do it every year from now on. It is such a sweet ritual – and full of meaning. And I don’t even consider myself Christian! I’m aware that Advent is counting down to Jesus’s birth, but I also believe that these many festivals of light in the darkening days resonate deeply in all of us, as we naturally turn inward towards our own light when the days are chillier and shorter.

My friend Darlene hosted the celebration in her home on the third Sunday before Christmas. She was careful to set it up so that it was not a social event, but really a quiet, contemplative, more sacred time for the children. She helped prepare all the parents by calling each home and singing the songs she was using into the answering machine, to make sure everybody had a chance to learn the melodies.

We began by entering her home through the back door, as the advent spiral was set up in the darkened living room. All the children were seated at the large kitchen table expectantly. The parents stood around the edges. Darlene very briefly explained the meaning of Advent and then as I read the poetry she’d given me,  Darlene surrounded each candle with the appropriate objects and then lit it. I believe that it is a Steiner poem.

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.

When all the candles were lit, we enjoyed them a moment by singing together.

When the lights came back on, Darlene served homemade chili and bread. The child at the head of the table took the bowl and bread and passed them to the next child and so on until the other end of the table was reached. Then we sang a grace. It was very similar to the one we sing in our weekly playgroup in the woods. In this way there was a feeling of communal breaking of bread.

After the food and a little bit of socializing (can’t be helped!), we made our way to Darlene’s bedroom to see her puppet show. It was a simple story about how Advent celebrates the birth of Christ and how Solstice celebrates the (re-) birth of the sun. Then the puppet character walked an advent spiral of his own, lit his candle from the center flame, and then walked back and placed his candle in a star.

Then the kids got ready to do the same! Darlene passed out white candles in specially prepared candle holders made out of a fresh apple (the only “cost” for this event was to bring an apple to replace the one you used). And then we all practiced singing the two songs (“Advent, Advent, A Candle Burns” and “Gloria”). Next, Darlene led the singing group to the living room, which was dark except for a solitary candle burning at the center of a spiral path made of evergreen garland.

As the adults hummed “Silent Night” each child made his or her way to the center to light a candle. Even the youngest 1 1/2 year old lit a candle by himself (he insisted). Then walking out of the spiral, each child placed his or her candle upon a golden star to light the path for the next child.

When all the candles were lit – we sat and sang – and then left quietly (or as quietly as we could manage).

What a lovely night! Thank you Darlene!

P.S. You can see more pictures of the event at Darlene’s post here.
P.P.S. The following videos are of the Advent song and Gloria.

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