Outside the church ... before the magic

This year witnessed our son starting kindergarten at the Waldorf School.  We knew that it was very much a step for our family in terms of involvement.  What I mean by that is that families – not solely the children – are a large part of the school.  This is exactly what we wanted: involvement.

Such was what we got this morning as we got to see our children participate in the advent spiral.  It’s a winter tradition, as I understand it, one that revolves around the theme of light coming from the darkness.  Illumination, in a word.

Some of you might be familiar with this tradition, but until a month ago, I wasn’t.

Our class’ advent spiral – like others – was a reverent activity. Picture a dark room, the floor cleared save for event’s namesake, wrapped in a cloak of soft lyre music and all but devoid of words. The advent spiral, while many things metaphorically, is a physical path lined with pine boughs placed in a spiral pattern. At the center of the spiral is a single candle, which is lit at the start of the tradition.

The children, one by one, receive their unlit candle, walk the path to the illumed center. With their lit candle, the darkness steps ever so slightly back as the child walks the spiral once more, stopping to place their candle along the path before returning to sit with their classmates as the next child stands to take part in the tradition.

The quiet is soothing. The dim light grows, but never reaches a crescendo – a reminder of reverence. The children – and this is the most amazing part – each walk their own way, some fast and determined, some slow and timid. Placing of their lit candles is another matter entirely as some venture out to brighten a dark part of the path, while others – and this happened several times with our class! – placed their light next to other candles. We had two such groupings.

The teacher completed the tradition by receiving her candle, walking the spiral, and placing it. What was particularly touching was how she – after placing her own – picked up and relit a student’s candle, which had gone out early on.

For us, the parents, sitting in the darkness on the periphery of the advent spiral, it was a precious experience. Hard to explain. And I don’t think I’ll try this time.

Happy holidays, everybody.

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