Children love the same thing to be repeated in the same way and at the same time. Regular meal times, regular bed times, regular tasks—this is the backbone of a healthy and happy childhood. Educators are sometimes afraid that too much repetition will stifle originality, but this is to neglect the changing character of each age. The love of repetition at a young age will not mean the child will continue repeating forever. On the contrary, repetition at this age is an exercise of the will and strengthens those very qualities on which initiative will later depend.
“The intellectual age abolished the old rituals of living but something of the former ages still lives in children. They look forward to the seasons and their customary festival celebrations.”
Rahima Baldwin, Author, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”
Richmond Waldorf School celebrates many festivals during the school year. Some festivals or celebrations are for the grades students only, others for the whole student body. Some festivals will be held in school for children and teachers, while others will be for the whole community. Check the school calendar for specific dates. Below are some basic rules and descriptions of our festivals. For more information, please speak with your child’s teacher.
The Rose Ceremony (1st day of school in September)
The Rose Ceremony marks the beginning of the school year for all grades students. This special ceremony welcomes the rising 1st grade into the Elementary School. Older students offer new students a rose and walk them through a flower arch to symbolize this new beginning.
Richmond Waldorf School celebrates the Michaelmas season with service projects, field games, and with a pageant performed by the students in the grades. Although Michaelmas is not commonly celebrated in North America, it is an important festival in Waldorf schools throughout the world.
Michaelmas honors the archangel Michael, who is the embodiment of courage. It is he who cast proud Lucifer from the heights, he who vanquishes the dragon in the depths. Michael gives human beings the courage to meet the trials of the present and the confidence to look to the challenges of the future without fear. Michael lends his strength to those who struggle against the forces of darkness. His arm guides those who fight the dragons of the lower self. He is the embodiment of divine justice, separating the moral kernel from our earthly chaff.
At Richmond Waldorf School, we try to put ideals into action—to look beyond our narrow selves to what others need and to what the world needs. The world is full of dragons. These dragons spread hatred and fear, doubt and destruction, but they also present opportunities. In the pageant that our students perform, the dragon that terrorizes the kingdom is tamed, not slain. He is led into service, and his strength is used for good. We hope that this picture strengthens our students as they move forward into the future and that it inspires them to work to make the world a better place.
Martinmas & the Lantern Walk (November)
From France comes the story of St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who exhibited great generosity. Upon meeting a beggar on the road, St. Martin cut his cloak in two to share with the unfortunate man, facing the ridicule of his fellow soldiers.
Each year, RWS gathers to celebrate Martinmas. Each student creates a beautiful candle-lit lantern, which symbolizes the light in all of us as we enter the darkening months of winter. We light lanterns and share gingerbread and warm cider. To emulate St. Martin’s generosity, our community collects winter clothing for Richmond’s families in need.
Santa Lucia Day (December)
A traditional Swedish celebration, this festival is celebrated during the school day. Down the hall comes the 2nd grade led by a child in a long, white dress with a crown of green leaves and glowing candles. In her hands she carries a tray of little cakes. Behind her the rest of the class, also in white, carry more trays of the traditional twisted sweet cake to each of the other classes in the school.
The Spiral of Light (early December)
Advent, from the Latin “to come,” is the period including the four Sundays before Christmas. In Christian churches, one candle is lit each Sunday until the lights of four candles herald the birth of Christ. Yet Advent, and even the feast day we now celebrate as Christmas, has a far wider traditional context. Throughout Europe, northern Asia, and in ancient Egypt, this holiday has had festival connotations of light and the sun—of the time when winter draws to its close and spring begins. The Jewish festival of light, Hanukkah, falls very near to Christmas.
At Richmond Waldorf School, children are invited to participate in a very special Advent celebration. Each child walks through a spiral of fresh pine boughs to light his or her candle from the large center candle. This represents light in the darkest days of winter. As he or she returns through the spiral, the child chooses a place along the path to set the candle. As the number of candles grows, so does the beauty and magic of the experience.
The Festival of Light (last evening of school in December)
The Festival of Lights is another celebration during the Advent season that is designed to be a gift to the community. Grades students will perform verses, songs, and plays from their respective curriculums that reflect different cultural celebrations of the season.
Early May brings the RWS Annual May Faire Celebration. Open to the public, this event brings members of the larger Richmond community to RWS to celebrate. Children decorate wreaths with fresh spring flowers, dance around the Maypole, and sing songs of spring. Children’s activities, stories, and delicious treats are available for the whole family.
May Day was in ancient tradition the celebration of the beginning of summer in Celtic lands, and by Roman tradition sacred to Flora, the goddess of spring. The Maypole is thought to represent the tree of life and fertility. In the modern context it provides an opportunity for festivity and a reminder that warmer days are ahead. Children and adults have traditionally worn flowers when dancing around the Maypole. A single blossom in the buttonhole or hair, or an actual May Crown, or wreath of flowers for the head, symbolizes the full arrival of spring.
Friday Gathering & Assemblies
Every Friday, the students of the Elementary School gather in the Eurythmy Room for a gathering. The gathering begins with one of the lower-grade classes reciting its morning verse, and then birthdays are celebrated. Classes share what they have been working on, and the group sings seasonal songs together. The gathering ends with one of the upper-grade classes reciting its morning verse. Parents are welcome to attend Friday gatherings.
Before Thanksgiving, before spring break, and on the last day of school, we have major assemblies that are designed to showcase each class’s academic and artistic work. Families are encouraged to attend assemblies because it allows them to experience what has been learned in different subjects.
The birthday ceremony is an important event at school and for your child. With respect and reverence, the class honors your child’s birthday. In the kindergarten classes, parents are invited to the ceremony. In the grades classes, children typically celebrate birthdays at school with only their classmates and teachers present.