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One of my favorite Waldorf traditions is the Advent or Winter spiral. The spirals are typically constructed earlier in December. They may consist of pine branches or other natural materials laid out in a spiral formation on a floor or a ground. A lit candle is then placed on the innermost point of the spiral. Once constructed, the spirals are the centerpiece for a simple yet profoundly spiritual event. Participants either arrive past dark (outside spirals) or dim the lights (indoor spirals). Then, one participant will enter the spiral with a candle possibly embedded in an apple. The participant will walk the length of the spiral and then light her or her own candle and begin the trip back. At some point along the way, the participant will place the candle on the ground or floor to lit a little section of the spiral. Hence, light is created in darkness to aid the next walker.

As more and more participants traverse the spiral, their light brightens the spiral with a beautiful effect. Verses, songs or music may heighten the mood of the event, but the increase in light is the key goal. Unfortunately, I seem to forget that many Winter spirals are held prior to the actual Winter solstice. Consequently, I have missed out on two such spirals. This year–due in part to the success of the Krampus event–I decided that anything was possible. I would have my spiral regardless of the number of participants, what little I had to construct it and the lateness of the month. I set about creating the the spiral in a backyard setting with a combination of rocks and bricks. My son helped as well. It took an inordinate amount of time, but the spiral was built.

 Backyard Spiral

Backyard Spiral

I then made a quick run to the store to buy flameless candles and some gold, star garland. I ran the garland around the perimeter of the spiral and placed the flameless candles on the innermost point of the spiral. Flameless candles don’t sound so great, but I didn’t want to risk burning down the house!

Flameless Candles

Flameless Candles

Finally, when the time came, my son and I went out past sunset and we took eight turns each traversing the spiral and placing candles. We also recited versions marking the “getting” of the light and the “bringing” of the light. In a short amount of time, the spiral was brightly lit just as planned.

Voila! Light in the darkness.

Just Look at All That Light

Just Look at All That Light

But wait… There’s more. I just have to include this awesome picture of my son, post-spiral. He was quite proud of his accomplishment both creating and walking the spiral. The creation was certainly hard work. The bricks and rocks were heavy and numerous trips were required to get our creation right. Walking the spiral was difficult both physically and mentally. It’s no easy feat walking a spiral pattern in the darkness. Both of us suffered from some degree of dizziness and disorientation. Prior to the “lighting up” stage, both of us had trouble staying in the right “whorl” of the spiral. The trips were made even harder for my son due to the hollowing wind, shadows and rustling objects. My son became quite fearful of the whole affair about mid-way through. He wanted nothing more to run into the house and lock the door. However, he pushed on till the end. Later, I explained to him the role of light in extinguishing fear, and we reasoned that the early creators of these types of lighting ceremonies possibly designed the events to dispel such things as things lurking in the dark or fear of such things in the dark.

Warming Up, Post-Spiral

Warming Up, Post-Spiral

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This year, I wanted to make an effort of incorporating Advent into our holiday schedule. I had already made the “Advent box,” which my son took to calling the “Mystery box.” I had vainly attempted to needle felt an advent spiral mat, and I had contemplated getting the four candles. However, Advent didn’t come to fruition in the way that I had imagined. Instead, this little book fell into my lap. Actually, it didn’t fall upon me in any, real serendipitous or mysterious way. I actually bought it in a Waldorf/Anthroposophical bookstore. Still, I certainly hadn’t intended to buy it, and I didn’t really know what I was purchasing. I liked the cover, and I assumed it was a collection of unrelated Christmas stories with gnomes and fairies and talking mice. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was a collection of stories that followed Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. True to Waldorf form, there were four blocks of stories that each related to Mary and Joseph’s interaction with the mineral, plant, animal and human kingdoms. If one is not into Waldorf, per se, this may not be a familiar concept. Suffice it to say, this is not the typical journey to Bethlehem that one might first envision. Instead, the tale starts off on a road–any road, in a non-descript place–and that road is fraught with perils. The first perils are mostly rocks to big to bypass or gravel to sharp for the travelers and donkey to walk on. The stories tend to resolve with events such as boulders rolling away of their own accord in deference to the holy couple or shards of useless stones turning to crystals or jewels. The second block of stories pertains to vegetation that makes itself available as food or ornamentation to the couple, despite the vegetation’s being out of season. The blocks of stories continue on in this manner until they reach their destination and their child arrives.

Finally, the stories themselves are generally very spare and brief. As stories, they may be too brief and straightforward to really involve a child’s imagination. However, I believe there would be much value in the book, if it were paired with a miniature Advent spiral. Here, I mean a spiral shape made out of wood, fabric, clay or some other material. It would likely have some type of figures that would move along it to mark the passing of the four weeks until advent. I’ve seen many such spirals and they often have rocks, plants, animal figures and human figurines decorating their edges. Pairing the themed stories in the book with the stories in the book would be be a great way to slowly build up the Advent spiral and the general excitation surrounding Christmas.

The Light in the Lantern

The Light in the Lantern

In my quest to fill the holidays with magic, I am trying to recognize some of the more obscure (from an American perspective) holidays that occur during the Winter. The first holiday that I am trying hard to incorporate is St. Nick’s Day. St. Nick’s Day celebrates the actual Saint from which Santa is based and is–apparently–a more low key, religious take on the seasonal gift givers. Obviously, a holiday such as St. Nick’s Day appears to be redundant with Christmas itself. Consequently, I had to consider ways in which to make this holiday uniquely special. I assumed I had a roadblock until I came across a video on lapbooking. I found myself so inspired by the video that I determined to make a lapbook for St. Nick’s Day. Once I committed myself to the task, I found it quite easy to create the lapbook and to incorporate a wide variety of information, stories, games and other activities around the day’s theme of selfless giving.

This is the lapbook’s cover. It features a simple picture of St. Nick which may be colored. It needs a little more oomph to it, but it will make do for now. In the very near future, I hope to create a decorative title which will be affixed above the St. Nick picture.

This is the inside cover of the laptop. Here, a fanciful picture of St. Nick can be seen poised above a small mountain of shoes. In the Netherlands, St. Nick’s visit results in shoes being filled with fruit, candies and small trinkets.

This is the cover for a fold-out story of St. Nick. I essentially printed out a story that consists of two pages printed on one side of paper. I folded the paper in half and cut out an imposing picture of St. Nick and pasted it on the blank side of the story.

Here is a simplified version of the St. Nick story. St. Nick has some fairly lurid stories associated with him, so I went for a simplified tell that left something to the imagination.

To make the most of the space allotted by the folders that comprise the lapbook, I incorporated an envelope to hold pieces for a bingo activity. I layered some papers for a drawing activity and a fold out “bag of coins” to further discussion of the St. Nick lesson. The other folder is likewise filled with side activities including a St. Nick puzzle and some material to make St. Nick ornaments.

The flap containing the St. Nick story opens out to reveal a Bingo game. The reverse side of the fold-out flap also contains a pocket which can be used to contain other elements of the St. Nick lesson plan.

Finally, the rear of the lapbook contains a matching game that prompts one to search through a picture and circle objects that start with the letter S. Here, I should point out, St. Nick traditionally travels on a ship, so the S is a fitting letter to associate with the seafaring saint and his ship.

As I was perusing various videos looking for Christmas ideas, I came across a video featuring an “Advent Box.” I had heard of calendars, but never a box. The individual in the video explained with much relish that he had received Advent calendars from various persons. However, his he was most fond of an amazing, handmade Advent box that his girlfriend designed and built for him. The box appeared to contain 24 little bags of goodies hidden amongst greenery and bells and other elements reminiscent of Christmas and/or Advent. Obviously, I had to create one myself for my son. This ushered in a week of grueling hand-sewing and beading interspersed with secret toy runs and life in general. After losing sleep over the creation for some days now, I suddenly realized that I will likely not get any real sleep for another 3 weeks or so. The Advent box is such a hit that my son jumps out out of bed every morning to reach inside for his prize. If I do not get up right at 6AM, he will hem and haw for an hour about how I refuse to get out of bed to watch him root around in the bagged and hidden treasures. One just can’t win sometimes!





The highlight of our December focus table was our wooden calendar with an attendant Jack Frost, Tomten, and Snow Spirit. We also had a menagerie of sleeping animals interspersed with animals attired in their winter finest. The calendar (created by Etsy artist MamaRoots) is based on a european folktale called the Twelve Brothers. It’s quite similar to Cinderella stories and has a seasonal aspect to it. MamaRoot’s calendar is a beautiful and functional depiction of the story, and we will treasure it for years to come.

The books were less inspired. I had originally wanted to focus on a weather theme, but I went the easy route and purchased a pile of seasonal and holiday books from Building 19. One book stood out among them. It was entitled The Christmas Candle, and it was written by Richard Paul Evans. It’s a beautiful story that addresses the issue of social justice at this seemingly charitable time of year.

December Focus TAble

December Focus Table

Somehow, my son made it into the Christmas pageant. This was surely not my intention, as I assumed he was too young. I think things transpired when I assisted at a rehearsal for older UU chidren. Suddenly, my son was donning moose antlers, and he was in the manager. Apparently, this sort of thing isn’t unusual at the church. Apparently, a Unicorn was on-hand for the “blessed event” a few years past.

Moose in the Manger

Moose in the Manger

 Moose up Close

Moose up Close