The observation of the rhythm of the year with celebration and festival life is universal among humans everywhere and of every age. Since the beginning of time, there is evidence that all peoples have celebrated the rhythm of life, returning to ritual and routine year after year, marking time, showing reverence and connecting with each other and the world around us through the cycle of the year.
Many cultures share common roots in the origins of celebration. Foods used in celebration often reflect the local harvest, or what has been put up from the harvest. Spices are often associated with seasons and celebration. Think of warming allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon in the fall. Sometimes foods are related symbolically to the celebration, by color, shape or quality. Song and dance often accompany celebrations along with performances of varied sorts.
Why Celebrate Festivals and Other days?
Festival life is an important and meaningful element of Waldorf/Steiner/LifeWays education and parenting communities. Celebrations help carry children, families, teachers and communities through the year with preparation and anticipation of what is to come, through song, story, movement, gathering and use of seasonal materials for practical and decorative use, and of course, specific foods. Festivals and celebrations provide homeschooling families regular moments in the year to come together and celebrate. Sometimes festivals are celebrated through a playgroup and can be a means for fostering community for its members. Schools often open their doors to welcome the broader community for festival celebrations. Online bloggers offer pictures of celebrations and descriptions of how to pull it together.
How Many Festivals to Celebrate?
The number of days for possible celebration is limitless and may seem overwhelming. In trying to decide which festivals to take up consider the mood of the season, what is the essential element? What speaks to you? What are your family’s beliefs and traditions? What traditions would you like to create or deepen that resonate deep within for you? What is celebrated in your community? What Festivals feel like social ones to you? Which ones feel more private or family oriented? How can you bring them about?
Mood of Autumn
Let’s begin with the mood of the season. In autumn, we continue with the harvest that began in summer, preserving food for winter through canning, drying and freezing. Autumn festivals begin as sustenance building, strength and courage making, and then move us through the dying and dropping of the leaves, the seeds dispersing, the veils between the worlds grows thin, we remember the ancestors, offering them sustenance and celebrating life and death with All Hallows Eve, All Saints and All Souls Days, the Day of the Dead, then move through the darkness of the year towards festivals of light, festivals of finding the light within and carrying it out into the world, in the cold dark night of winter, fanning our flames to create and sustain warmth for all the world. And one morning we awaken to find the world covered in crystals and note that Jack Frost has made his fist visit. We are in the season of autumn.
September :: October :: November
Rosh Hashanah :: begins at sundown Sept 9th – ends at sundown Sept 11th
Yom Kippur :: begins at sundown Sept 18th – ends at sundown Sept 19th
Autumn Equinox :: Sept 23rd
Sukkot – Jewish festival of the harvest :: Sept 23rd – Sept 30th
Michaelmas ~ the Feast Day of St. Michael, the archangel :: Sept 29th
Feast Day of St. Francis ~ patron saint of animals :: Oct 4th
Canadian Thanksgiving :: Oct 8th
All Hallow’s Eve ~ Halloween :: Oct 31st
Dia de los Muertos ~ Days of the Dead :: Oct 31st- Nov 2nd
All Saints Day :: Nov 1st
All Souls Day :: Nov 2nd
Martinmas :: Nov 11th ~ the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, often celebrated with lantern walks
US Thanksgiving :: Nov 22nd
Chanukah :: begins at sundown Dec 2nd – ends at sundown Dec 10th
Advent :: Dec 2nd – Dec 24th
Saint Nicholas :: Dec 6th
Santa Lucia Day :: Dec 13th
Some Favorite Resources for Autumn
All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Frynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling
The Children’s Year by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Frynes-Clinton and Marye Rowling
Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey
Calendar of the Soul by Rudolf Steiner
In the Light of a Child by Michael Hedley Burton
The Harvest Craft Book by Thomas Berger
Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie is the Editor and Publisher of The Wonder of Childhood and has spent the past fifteen years with one of her own children in early childhood (under seven years of age.) She was blessed with a wondrous, rhythmic and outdoor childhood on the coast of Maine. Lisa has worked with children and their families for the past twenty four years, initially as a homebirth midwife. Lisa’s home based program The Children’s Garden began eighteen years ago on a remote tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. Lisa’s current focus is on supporting parents of young children to find rhythm in daily, weekly and seasonal life through her interactive curriculum program Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through the Year, more on that here. She lives with her family in Northern Vermont and blogs at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life . She also hosts a discussion groups for parents of young children here.