Waldorf festivals are celebratory and focus on significant markers of seasonal change or significant values and virtues central to human development. Festivals are a vital part of our school life and the curriculum incorporates thematic subject matter in lesson plans and class activities with the rich history and traditions demonstrated in our festivals.
The festival motifs are introduced in the classroom through storytelling, song, drama, movement, and decoration. Some of our festivals specifically focus on particular grade(s) while most are celebrated by the entire community in school-wide assemblies, student performances and entertaining fairs. It is the communal nature of the festivals that connect parents, faculty, staff, and alumni as well as the general public to the students for meaningful celebration and bonding of community ties. Some of Prairie Hill’s festivals include:
Michaelmas – The Festival of Courage.
Michaelmas is a little-known festival in North America but it is a major celebration in Waldorf Schools world-wide near or on the Autumnal Equinox toward the end of September when daylight grows shorter. The festival is named for the legend of archangel Michael, known as a protector of humanity, who inspires qualities of courage, initiative and steadfastness. The purpose of this festival is to celebrate human will, inner strength, courage and initiative; it is this spirit of resolve that we seek to carry with us as we begin the school year.
Our Michaelmas festival includes community beautification of the school grounds; each grade takes on a project such as weeding and then all of the children come together to work on a larger project such as fence building. Parents, caregivers and community members are encouraged to lend a hand. Community work is followed by a performance of the St. Michael play, a wonderful reenactment of St. Michael taming the dragon, and a delicious pot-luck style picnic.
The Festival of Community – Martinmas or The Lantern Walk
Martinmas or the “Festival of Community” takes place at the beginning of November. Based on the story of St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who abandoned his position of high rank and wealth to devote his life to serving the poor, this festival invites us to join with others to carry and follow the lantern light through the gathering darkness. At Prairie Hill, we meet behind the school, light our lanterns, many of which the children have made during class time and listen to the story of Martin. We then go on an enchanted lighted walk through the meadow followed by shared community time with light refreshments.
The Yuletide Faire
At this annual festival, open to the greater community, visitors discover the special magic of the medieval past. The Yuletide Faire traditionally lands on the third weekend in November. The school gets transformed into a fantasy world, put together and run by parent volunteers, faculty and staff. Prairie Hill students, along with their teachers participate in creating items that get sold in the Parent Craft Room. Entertainment abounds with live music and other acts as well as strolling minstrels and costumed characters such as the beloved Muffin Man, Pocket Lady, Pickle Man, and others. Children’s attractions rotate through the years and have included the Wee Tots Theater, Dragon Room, Children’s Bazaar, Excalibur, Face Painting, Roaming Pirates and many others. Experience the very best of independent crafts presented in this vibrant and magical marketplace. Among the abundant shopping opportunities at Yuletide Faire are a silent auction, book sale, toys made from natural materials and handcrafted items from more than 30 artisans. Other highlights include luncheon fair from the Winter Kitchen, decadent desserts from the Dessert Cafe and a la carte sweet treats from the Sweet Shoppe. This is a community favorite for all ages.
Festival of Light (Advent Spiral)
The Festival of Light takes place early in December and is unique in our calendar of the year. There are no presentations by the grades, no speeches by the administration. Instead, each class visits the dimly lit Community Hall, sitting quietly and listening to peaceful music as a candle is lit in the center of a spiral of evergreen boughs, a symbol of life amidst the dead of winter. Then each child in turn walks to the center of the spiral and lights a candle that is an apple then places the apple along the path. The lights brighten the path for those who come after. Each child walks alone (or with their teacher), at his or her own pace, in his or her own way.
This is a celebration of quiet confidence, of carrying light in darkness, of sharing that light with others. Parents are invited to attend this festival, not only to watch their own children, but to watch how they are in the community of their peers. How does each child approach the candle at the center of the spiral? Are his footsteps halting or rapid? Does she stop along the way to consider each crystal and shining stone in the path before placing her candle near the way out of the spiral, or does she set it down right away and hurry on without looking back? Being a witness to this journey can be a moving experience, and adults and children alike carry away from the festival the feelings and meaning they found within it.
The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” This seasonal observance has been kept by people around the world from all paths and beliefs; as autumn gives way to winter, we prepare for the return of the sun, the lengthening of days, and for the insights that we can gain from reflection on the year that has been and on what may be to come.
Santa Lucia celebrates the life of Saint Lucy and light for the longest night of the year (under the old Gregorian calendar this was the Winter Solstice). St. Lucy is known for bringing food and care to the people of Sweden during a harsh time of famine. She wore a wreath of candles on her head so that she had her hands free to offer food and lingonberries to symbolize new life in winter. At Prairie Hill, a second grade student, dressed in white as Santa Lucia and wearing a golden crown aglow with four candles, leads a procession of classmates. Each holds a lit candle as they sing “Santa Lucia” and carry their light throughout the school. The second graders are busy for days before baking buns they will share with their schoolmates as the procession travels to all the other classes, including the Wonder Garden and Kindergartens.
After a long, cold winter, spring has finally arrived and seeds are eagerly being planted with dreams of future harvests. In agrarian communities, the end of winter was celebrated with joy and relief. New lambs, calves and goats showed promise of bounty in the future. As the fickle weather of March and April gave way to the gentle breezes and blossoms of May and the first new foods began to vary the winter table, people crawled out of hibernation, put on their finery and met in their communities to make merry and raise their voices in song.
At Prairie Hill, we will celebrate this Season of Becoming in early May. The event opens with the Grade 3 class performing the maypole dance. All other activities will begin after the dance.
The Fairy Glen will magically appear for the little ones and the young at heart. The classes will sponsor willow crown making, a cakewalk, tie-dying, other take-away projects and games. Grade 7 students host dinner service. This event is a favorite as it marks the growth of Spring and the feelings of renewal it brings.
Other Annual Events:
The Variety Show has become a much-anticipated event and a favorite in the community, not to mention a most entertaining way to spend a winter night. Usually held in January, children, parents and grandparents alike sign up to make the audience smile. You’ll see it all, from poetry reading to singing and dancing, circus acts, instrument playing and maybe even a how to bake muffins demonstration. Enjoyed by all who attend.
A hands-on, interactive science fair open to families, students and the public. Students in Grades 6 through 8 research a question of interest and then create a model and presentation in order to share their newly gained knowledge with others. This event usually occurs toward the end of February.
An evening of food, entertainment and of course spirited bidding in our live and silent auctions, this adult event takes place every year in mid April. The Auction is one of Prairie Hill’s major fundraisers and is nearly completely run by volunteer power. The theme of the auction changes from year to year making it an ever-changing exciting event.
Prairie Hill’s Spring concert is a remedy for just about any ailment. This is a culmination of the students’ musical studies of the year and will certainly bring joy to anyone who attends. The Spring Concert occurs the last week in April.
Graduation is an amazing way to gain a deeper and more full understanding of students’ experience at Prairie Hill. There is an opportunity to view student work before the children take you on a journey through the grades. Students and teacher share their reflections and audience members are always awe-inspired by the display of confidence and emotion coming from Prairie hill’s fine young graduates.