Thursday, May 30, 2019

Old Fashioned Ways with New Fashioned Consciousness

Waldorf education is known for its festival celebrations that take place throughout the year and  return again the following year to be revisited and celebrated once more. The very foundation of the kindergarten and nursery is the festival life that is born out of the rhythm of the year.

Throughout history, human beings have created rituals and celebrations around light and dark, sowing and reaping, birth and death. This is an ancient way of finding meaning in the world and connecting with others.

Mother Nature along with the seasonal cycle of the year provide the foundation for festival life with the turning wheel of the year, from light to darkness, from sowing to reaping to composting back into the earth, birth and death takes place over and over again. The wheel turns, the light returns. A good deal to celebrate.

Festival life provides the cadence for the school year. Some festivals, as well as certain aspects of festivals, are celebrated in specific grades grades or classes, some by the entire school body, some include parents, and some are open to the broader community. It depends on the teacher, the school, the circumstances and the community. 

For many of us, especially those of us who find ourselves with leanings towards Waldorf education, either as parents or as homeschoolers, or perhaps both, a school festival can be the first experience of Waldorf education in practice.

Yet many of us wonder about these mysterious festivals.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine,  a new style of architecture, social reformer and much, much more, wrote and lectured on the rhythm of the year and the cycle of festivals through the year. His focus was on the four major events of the year, each of which takes place at or near the turning points of the year, that is Michaelmas, Christmas, Easter and Midsummer.

Before the advent of electricity and machines, people lived in harmony with the changes in the year, out of necessity. With the coming of autumn came preparations for the cold days to come. Food was preserved and stored. Wood stacked. Fires were lit to bring warmth and light to the night as dark came sooner during the harvest days of September. Neighbors and villagers came together to help one one bring in the hay, harvest the apples and the nuts, preserve the vegetables and fruits. These activities were not based on choice or lifestyle, they were necessities for survival. They were social events out of necessity.

Today many of the old ways are returning and to them we are bringing a new found conscious awareness to the celebration of festivals. No longer are most of us forced to bring in the hay or harvest the vegetables before the first frost in order to save the crops. We are free to work the land or not. We are free to help our neighbor or not. We are free to buy our groceries grown and produced miles away or to buy from our neighbor farmer or regional farmers who tend the land and animals in a manner that resonates with our world view and values.

Some old fashioned ways imbued with new fashioned consciousness.

Actions taken as a free choice.

This poster was produced and distributed by the US Food Administration at the turn of the  century during war time. Many of these "old fashioned" ways encouraged during war time have become conscious choices today.

Instead of doing it "because it has always been done this way," we are bringing new awareness to our actions, a deeper understanding of why our connection to the natural world and simple living matters.

Festivals offer us an opportunity to find inner meaning on the changes taking place in the outer world. The celebration of festivals gives us a chance to pause and take stock of our lives, in the moment and with reflection of years passed, they give us perspective on what it means to be human and to be alive. In a conscious and living way.

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