Inspiration for Christmas

Christmas Tree Decorating

In all religions this Christmas festival has been one of confidence, of trust and of hope, because of a feeling that the light must prevail; out of the seed planted in the earth something will spring forth which seeks the light and will thrive in the light of the coming year.

The Christmas Festival, Rudolf Steiner

Berlin, 24 December 1905

The Light

Our young Prairie Hearts community is learning about all the festivals that take place in a Waldorf community. Even old traditions such as Advent take on a new meaning through the eyes of Rudolf Steiner who has inspired many of us to look within at this time.

… Advent is more of a time for making ready, than for celebration. Years ago it was used for fasting, for inner orientation, for taking the little flame that began to shine brightly at Michaelmas on an inner journey through the darkness of the soul towards the Divine Light of Christmas. Today this long festival (23 – 28 days) still offers the space for peaceful contemplation, for finding oneself, even among all the outer preparations which may occupy us.

All Year Round by Druitt, Fynes-Clinton, and Rowling

Advent Wreath

Advent is the time leading up to Christmas, and means “to come.”

During advent the days get darker, until we come to the shortest day and the light starts to return.  Advent has a far larger context then leading up to the day now commonly celebrated as Christmas.  For thousands of years before Christianity the Egyptians celebrated the festival of Osiris, the Celts and druids held festivals of light and fire, the Jewish people celebrated Hanukkah.  For many people for thousands of years advent has been a time of preparation for the darkest day of the year, a time when the tides turn towards the light, towards spring.  As the sun triumphs over the darkness, we are comforted by the lesson that we too will triumph over the darkness in our lives.

From ourbigearth.com, “For me advent is about light.  As the light outside dwindles it is a choice to look inward and seek the light there.”

Often this acknowledgement of the light is done by lighting one more candle each Sunday on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.  Rudolf Steiner connected the lights of advent to the mineral, plant, animal and human kingdoms as follows,

“The first light of advent is the light of the stones.  Stones that live in crystals, seashells and bones.

The second light of advent is the light of the plants.   Roots, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit by whom we live and grow.

The third light of advent is the light of beasts.  Animals of the farm, field, forest, air, and sea.  All await the birth in greatest in the least.

The fourth light of advent is the light of humankind.  The light of love, light of thought, to give and to understand.”.

“Life in its wholeness is like a plant.”

Life in its wholeness is like a plant. The plant contains more that what it offers to external life; it also holds a future condition within its hidden depths. One who views a newly leafing plant knows very well that eventually there will also be flowers and fruit on the leaf-bearing steam. The plant already contains in its hidden depths the flowers and fruit in embryo. Nevertheless, how can simple investigations of what the plant offers to immediate vision reveal what those new organs will look like?This can be told only by one who has come to recognize the very nature and being of the plant.

Likewise the whole of human life also contains within it the seeds of its own future; but if we are to tell anything about this future, we must first penetrate the hidden nature of the human being. Our age is little inclined to do this, but instead concerns itself with what appears on the surface, and believes it is walking on unsure ground when asked to penetrate what escapes outer observation.

The Education of the Child by Rudolf Steiner

This quote is one of my favourites. It is also one of the first things I read about Waldorf education. What appealed to me was his idea of looking deeper into the simple things of life. I once read that “little things are the hinges of the universe’ and this has always stuck with me. Whenever my life changed it was by simple endeavour like running into an old friend, someone not showing up to an event, or getting the flu and having to cancel something. Simple everyday things generally shape our lives.

The things that we take for granted are what matters most.  A paper cut, sore back, poor diet, or how about your child loosing their first set of teeth or learning to walk. Simple things have a deeper meaning. I have sensed this but ignored it because it seemed silly. Rudolf Steiner felt the same way. A birthday isn’t just a birthday. It is a sacred moment. A tree springing to life is not just another tree with leaves. It bears the fruit of summer, harvest and the jam on your plant during the cold months. Not to mention the gift of seeds for future trees.

Make the most out of life by understanding it and being present in the simplest of moments.

Kindergarten has to take on some aspects of what the home once stood for; the home is no longer the heart center of the family, has become a resting place in between errands, activities and appointments, to which parents and children are often on their way. Waldorf early childhood centers more and more have become a replacement for certain aspects of the traditional home. They are a place where there is enough time and where housework is lovingly taken up and accomplished with participation from children. Providing a home-like environment for children gives them the opportunity to do things out of their own initiative. And the children need time, enough time. We need to create the feeling of ‘There is no rush. There is time to play.'”

Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will by Stephen Spitalny

Hand Washing at the WDM

Why Waldorf is for Me

My parents are fifty years older than I am. Being raised by grandparents gave me a different perspective on life than many people my age. We were also poor so that helped too. My life was surrounded by olden-day things. We lived off our small town yard. We grew produce and bought meat and eggs from local farmers. Sometimes a friend would even stop by and give us fresh cows milk. Our life was simple and all I ever heard about was how my parents lived – travelling by horse to school, out plowing fields at the age of ten, Grandma making and selling butter to the hospital, and so on. This simple life became part of me.

As a mom struggling to balance work and home-life I often wondered how my grandmothers raised their children among all the farm errands that needed to be done. They were poor, lived off the land and did not have the conveniences I have.  Despite all my conveniences I’m lucky if I get the dishes washed once a day let alone vacuum, do laundry, clean the bathrooms, run errands in the city and make a meal from scratch.

My grandmother looking stylish as she helps out around the yard.

My grandmother looking stylish as she helps out around the yard.

How did they manage to feed the farm animals, shave the sheep, pick eggs, make their own butter, milk the cows, sew their own cloths, spin wool, haul water, manage sop pails and still play with their kids? Did they play with their kids? How did they do it?

My great grandmother spinning.

My great-grandmother spinning.

It is more than just the housework and running around. My uncles and aunts learned musical instruments, they built things, they were innovators. They used their minds and created what they needed. They built barns, boats, houses and were even known to build their own musical instruments. How did they do this with all the other stuff going on?

IMG_0013 IMG_0017-2 The boat Grandpa Luneng made

Since so much of my childhood encompassed topics of the olden times, before there were telephone lines and a road from Rose Valley to Wadena, I viewed life from the lens of the 1920s. I wanted a simple life, with natural toys, homemade food and to be in a rural community surrounded by nature. There was something inside me that really valued being a mom and a homemaker but it seemed so hard.

Slides were not as common back then as they are today.

Slides were not as common back then as they are today.

IMG_0011

More childhood fun. Why not try to stand on a sheep’s back? Crazy kid:)
Who thinks to do that now-a-days? Do kids use their imagination in this way?

My little girl was two years old when I first put her on the bus. It felt wrong to me but I had no idea how to parent her so it seem best that I sent her off to people who would know and give her what she needs. Surely others could do it if I couldn’t right? I discovered Waldorf the summer after my daughter’s first year of pre-kindergarten. It was purely by chance. One of those Google searches that skittered off in a different direction and our life has never been the same since.

Dry Earth

I didn’t realize how dried-up I was inside. I was cracking from a lack of moisture/spirituality/awareness/understanding and I had no idea. I accepted my life the way it was. Once Waldorf entered my life I literally felt like dark, moist, rich soil – fluffy, light and full. Anything could grow in me.

As I read Waldorf material and learned about olden-day-things like the rhythm of the days, week, month and year. For example, Sunday was church, Monday was wash-day, Tuesday was bread-day. Or in terms of the year: winter you planned your garden; spring you planted; summer you relaxed and let things grow; and late summer and fall were harvesting times. I began to relate to how my ancestors lived off the land and wanted to incorporate more nature into our lives. I learned how they found balance in the natural rhythm of nature and their lives. My mom used to tell me that my grandfather would say there would be six snowstorms after the crows arrived. Where has our attachment to nature gone in the last 100 years?

When we had our little girl we asked family and friends to only give her natural toys. This failed. We struggle to find any. Waldorf open my eyes to what toys are and how making them in the home not only helps your child develop mentally and physically but also creates a rhythm and harmony inside the home.

The biggest item I learned that summer was the breathing-in and breathing-out in a day. I noticed how Teela would play on her own a lot in the morning but come lunch time she needed more of my attention. Later afternoon I could leave her to play on her own and we come together again around supper time.

She breathes in when she plays on her own. Her wanting to be with me, interacting with someone or nature, is breathing out. We need to balance this throughout the day. When your kids have watched TV too long and are rowdy in the basement you kick them outside. They have been breathing in for too long. They need to breathe out.

Play Play

IMG_2557 Play

Once I started to be aware of what Waldorf pointed out to me I noticed how this new awareness benefited her and I. My confidence grew as a parent. I could be a mother to her. I was beginning to build an awareness of how I could be her parent verses parent her.

One year later we are still practicing. Learning to be alive after being a zombie for more than thirty years of my life takes time. Slowly we are improving and adding more and more Waldorf theories to our lives. Our parent-child relationship has blossomed. This isn’t to say that we’re not still figuring things out.

Waldorf taught me how to be a mother, wife, and myself. It taught me to trust my intuition and be aware of nature. It brought traditions, rhythm, love, and patience into our home. All of these things which were part of daily life for my grandmothers and great grandmothers. Whenever I hear a parent say that they could never be home all day with their children and that they wouldn’t know what to do with their kids or their kids would drive them crazy, I think to myself, they don’t know themselves. They don’t know all that they can be. This is what Waldorf teaches you – it gives you tools to see the world in front of you and within.