The meaning of the Winter Festival

Published by Deborah Shaw on

Winter Spiral

The Winter Spiral is celebrated in Steiner schools on the winter solstice throughout the world. The children at Blue Mountains Steiner School have been working on their lanterns for this special evening, which at its core is a celebration of light.

Handmade candles.
Beautiful handmade lanterns.

Greenery, candles and quiet

The school community bring greenery, which is laid out in a double spiral by staff before the children are present. When the children arrive in the early evening, they quietly enter their candlelit classrooms, where their teacher tells them a story that reflects the mood and theme of the solstice.

These stories may reach into ancient times or they may reveal qualities of our presence in our local environment at this special time of year, and bring mental pictures to our inner experiences of winter in the Blue Mountains. The children then walk with their class teacher toward the Spiral, where songs are sung and the Spiral is walked. 

Later in the evening, each individual takes their lantern one by one and slowly and carefully walks the path of the Spiral to the centre. Here the candle in the lantern is lit from the large candle at the centre and each person then turns and walks outward, pausing to place their lantern with its lit candle along the path of greenery. The mood is very quiet and still.

A time for reflection

At its core this festival is a celebration of light. Many people are familiar with physical light representing the light of consciousness or the light of love in the world. Here, we offer everyone the chance to enter into a reflective space, bathed in beautiful sounds and sights, to focus at this time of relative darkness in outer nature on our own inner light. This is a festival of reverence and quiet, and we will leave the grounds in quiet reflection at the end of the evening. Families may wish to continue this mood by candlelight in their own homes for the duration of the evening.

Turning towards the light

The Winter Spiral allows for a rekindling of our inner light during a time of darkness; where we experience the longest night and the shortest day of the year. It is the balance point within the year, for slowing down and taking time for introspection. This time then becomes the turning point, as the days start to lengthen again and we walk from the darkest time back into the light, moving with nature towards spring and summer.

The Spiral reminds us of the fact that although there are dark times, we are not alone, and if we reach inward to our inner resources we will meet the changes ahead with renewed strength and resilience.

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