Every year, around this time of changing seasons, Waldorf Academy students engage in a soulful Lantern Walk. Moving from long-lit days of summer to shorter, cooler days of fall, the Lantern Walk marks seasonal change through light and dark; and we illuminate the beauty of this quieter time through a soulful Lantern Walk in nature.
Children learn by doing, and in Waldorf education, the doing in our seasonal celebrations comes from the joy of creating, singing, dancing, gathering together in the open air. We mark what is inevitable and embrace seasonal changes as a natural progression of which we are part.
Festivals abound in Waldorf education for just this purpose. Michaelmas, Fall and Spring Equinox, May Fair and Winter Light. At pivotal times of the year, the curriculum includes a look at what is happening in nature and involves children and families in that natural evolution.
So much of our classroom learning ties to what happens in the world. Waldorf education at its core aligns with the development of the child, introducing different modes of learning and specific subjects to mirror what is happening in the child.
So, too, our festivals and seasonal celebrations tie into the awakening of the soul, and the human connection with nature. While the seasons change inevitably every year, we take time to mark them and see our place in concert with the changing seasons.
The children receive a subtle message that they are part of this seasonal cycle, and there is much to celebrate. Waldorf schools around the world view the human as a part of the natural world, with physical, emotional and spiritual connections that are equally important in human development.
Soulful celebrations like the Lantern Walk fill the spiritual yearning to connect with something greater, while also building a connection to and respect for the natural world. Throughout the grades, children learn to connect to the earth outside – whether through gardening, harvesting, or nature stories embedded in the curriculum.
Festivals are not singular to Waldorf, of course. They abound in cultures around the globe as a way to connect people with the natural cycles of life, and of the calendar year, as well as to provide meaning for human existence.
In her book, Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, Sharifa Oppenheimer says, “To celebrate seasonal festivals gives our children an opportunity to live the long rhythms of the earth and sun. These children will begin to know the long, slow sequences of their own human lives.”