The Winter Festivals

Naming the Four Weeks of Advent

The Winter Festivals

I am learning about the Winter Festivals through our third year at Waldorf school. My son is now 8 years old and in Second Grade. My daughter is now 6 and will be in First Grade next year—currently, she’s in her second year of Kindergarten.

I am making this up as I go along, gathering new bits each year to weave into our family’s traditions for Advent. Advent begins with the four Sundays before Christmas. So, the first day of Advent in 2012 is December 2.

One thing that we do at this time of year is to take nighttime walks around the neighborhood, weather permitting. If my children, or at least one of them, is able to fit into a stroller, they wear their pajamas, coat, boots and get wrapped in a blanket. We go out after dark, and look at Christmas lights on houses. Truth be known, I usually do this on a day when they, and I, seem to need some fresh air to get them ready for bed. This could be a good time to reuse your Martinmas lanterns.

The first light of Advent is the light of Stones.

The second light of Advent is the light of Plants.

The third light of Advent is the light of Beasts.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of People.

See The Four Lights of Advent for a description of the meaning of these festivals.

Our Advent began this year on Saturday, the night before the first Sunday of Advent. Then on Sunday, the children will walk their Advent Spiral at school.

So, St. Nicholas Feast Day coincides with the first week of Advent. St. Nicholas is a busy man, making the rounds to home and school, leaving tokens and treats in many people’s shoes, slippers or boots. The early childhood classes often shine shoes at this time of year. This will be our family’s fourth year of celebrating St. Nicholas’ Feast Day. Actually, we only do a few small traditions, namely that we set out our boots (and some carrots) for St. Nicholas (and his, uh, donkey? caribou?) on the night before the feast day. In the morning we wake to see small treats, fruit and tokens in our boots. I attempt to cook and bake on this Feast Day—one year we decorated our Gingerbread house on this day. This year, Feast Day falls on Thursday, December 6, which is a school day for us. So, if I do any feast day cooking it will be on the weekend. This is an excellent time to bake a poppy seed cake or to have a pancake feast, especially if you are reading The Festival of Stones by Reg Down. Brief mention in Story No. 9:

“Pine Cone came out of the kitchen brushing flour from his beard. He had been cooking pancakes all day: acorn pancakes, mushroom pancakes, pine nut pancakes, and best of all, maple syrup pancakes. “All done,” he said, and sat down to wait for the guests to arrive.

This story goes on to give a fairy-world description of the Earth Folk gathering to bring their special stones for their Festival of Stones (correlating with the first week of Advent).

The gathering of special stones is highlighted also in The Light in the Lantern: Stories for Adventthe following idea is given for how to build up your Nativity scene over the course of Advent:

“They make an Advent Garden in which they gradually build up the scenery Mary and Joseph will be going through with their little donkey on their way to Bethlehem. Using a brown cloth as a foundation they lay out, during the first week of Advent, just the stones, the most beautiful of which go to make the path on which Mary will tread. In the second week the plants are added—moss and cones and even some pot plants as ‘palm trees’.  In the third week, the animals, especially the grazing sheep, and in the fourth and last week human beings, shepherds keeping watch over their sheep. As the landscape takes shape the little stories in this book can form an accompaniment to it…”


I hope to keep up our  2012 Family Advent Journal of key traditions we’re doing this year and those I’d like to repeat next year. You may want to add to your own family traditions by choosing one purposeful activity to bring a peaceful, conscious moment to the season.

The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas

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