The Spiral Walk: Carrying Light Through Darkness

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A teacher watches as one of the littlest children lights her candle.

The annual Spiral of Light ceremony is a favorite of many in our school community. It is a truly unique and meaningful celebration of this time of year, a time of anticipation and preparation, as we look toward the midnight of the year. In all of us there is expectation and hope. As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, there is a growing mood of outer sleepiness in the world. The earth is growing more quiet with every passing day. The fallen leaves, the animals in hibernation, the shorter daylight hours which bring us inside much earlier, all contribute to this experience.

The Winter Solstice marks the turning point of the year, the shortest day, and with it, a celebration of the return of light. Throughout many cultures this midwinter holiday has had festival connotations of light and sun, of the time when winter’s increasing darkness begins to draw to a close with the renewed promise that spring’s light will soon increase. Among these festivals is Hanukkah (Hebrew), Diwali (Indian), Solstice (Druid), and Advent (Christian). The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.”

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The Spiral Walk at the end of the ceremony.

The Spiral Walk at Richmond Waldorf School is a way of acknowledging and honoring this time of year. We celebrate this time of year with the Spiral of Light, a ceremony of light, movement, and change. This ceremony heightens the awareness of moving from darkness to light in a simple way for the children. In a darkened room, students are invited to walk a path of evergreens, a natural symbol of life in the dead of winter, to the center of the spiral. The children carry a red apple with a candle in it and light their candle by the burning candle at the center of the spiral. As they walk back out, they find a place in the path to set down their candle. As each child kindles their light, the darkness grows slowly into a beautiful golden glow. The ceremony begins in darkness and ends brightly lit by many individual lights, each contributing to the bright warmth that envelopes us all.