Celebrating Advent

Advent starts this year on Sunday 2nd December and is celebrated for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas until Sunday 23rd December. Advent is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.

In the Southern hemisphere, Christmas falls near the Summer Solstice when the light is at its strongest and we celebrate the triumph of light at its greatest point in the yearly cycle. As the year draws to an end we increasingly spend time outside enjoying “the sun in the heavens”. With the long warm days, intense light and balmy nights we are drawn out into the elements rather than into “the sun in our hearts”.

It can be challenging to develop a sense of inwardness, patience and contemplation when the Spirit of the Earth is on its outward breath. To balance this we can consciously choose to “receive the light” and celebrate what is both universally human and universally spiritual. Celebrating Advent can provide an opportunity for some quiet ‘breathing in’ during this outwardly busy time of year and help your children to practice preparation, reverence and patience through the ritual of counting the weeks and days to the special celebratory event. The lighting of candles each week also reflects our own ‘Divine Light’ and helps to bring us a little inward contemplation.

Traditionally Steiner schools and families celebrate Advent by looking each week at the natural kingdoms on Earth: minerals the first week, plants the second week, animals the third week and humans the fourth week ( see verses below).

Here are some ideas that you might like to include in your own advent celebrations:

  

An Advent verse
‘The gift of the light we thankfully take, But not shall it be alone for our sake, The more we give light, the one to the other, It shines and it spreads, growing still further; Until every spark by friends set aflame, Until every heart, the joy to proclaim; In the depths of our souls, A shining sun glows.’

Advent Wreath  – on a special table made with greenery and seasonal flowers, four advent candles to light each consecutive Sunday of Advent.

Advent Garden-assembled and added to each Sunday of Advent with the four kingdoms celebrated each week try adding tiny crushed shells (collected from the beach) in a spiral pattern for the spiral on which Mary and Joseph figures walk.

Advent Crib-a nativity scene of the four kingdoms, adding a different one each of the Sundays- Crystal Kingdom, plant kingdom, animal and human kingdoms.

Advent calendars are available from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore by following this link

Verses for the 4 weeks of Advent

Week 1: Crystal Kingdom
The crystal kingdom comes first and is honoured by decorating the wreath or garden with crystals, seashells, stones or little bones you may find.

Week 2: Plant Kingdom
In the second week the plant kingdom is honoured by adding little dried flowers, seeds and pine cones and greenery.

                     

Week 3: Animal Kingdom
The animal kingdom, in the third week, is honoured by adding little wooden animals or beeswax creatures the children make.

Week 4: Humankind
The fourth week sees us honouring humankind by adding a little felted or beeswax child and figures.

      

Additional Reading:
Our library also has some handouts on making an advent wreath, nature table etc.
Possible stories include The Star Money from the Brothers Grimm, (and if you have the book “Rose Windows”, there is a lovely idea for a window transparency in there); craft ideas in The Children’s Year and Families, Festivals and Food. Other stories include the ones from “The Light In the Lantern: Stories for Advent” from Wynstones Press; Advent Sunday Stories, Collette Leenman; Mary’s Little Donkey, Gunhild Sehlin; Advent and Christmas Stories, Estelle Bryer and Janni Nicol.

Surgery Students “Losing Dexterity to Stitch Patients”

A professor of surgery says students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients.

Roger Kneebone, professor of surgical education at Imperial College, London, says young people have so little experience of craft skills that they struggle with anything practical.

“It is important and an increasingly urgent issue,” says Prof Kneebone, who warns medical students might have high academic grades but cannot cut or sew.

“It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things – cutting things out, making things – that is no longer the case,” says Prof Kneebone………

“Creativity is not just for artists. Subjects like design and technology, music, art and drama are vitally important for children to develop imagination and resourcefulness, resilience, problem-solving, team-working and technical skills,” says Mr Hunt.

“These are the skills which will enable young people to navigate the changing workplace of the future and stay ahead of the robots, not exam grades.”

Read the full article here

Why Waldorf (Steiner) Students Knit

Knitting has been gathering a lot of attention lately by crafters and scientists alike. It turns out knitting and handwork provides a host of brain and wellbeing benefits to people of all ages. For students, in particular, knitting provides an essential learning medium.

A child who is knitting a hat or a toy kitten sees their will transformed into art. They see their focused, detailed work turn into something beautiful and purpose filled. They experience how the conceptual becomes concrete.

This is why Waldorf education founder, Rudolf Steiner, lectured on the importance of handwork for students just under 100 years ago.

Read the full article here

How is ‘Fortnite’ Different to Yoyos and Swap Cards

There has been a lot of talk around about the computer game ‘Fortnite’. I was having a discussion with some parents about this recently and we were talking about how the children who play this game seem to be obsessed by it and talk non-stop about it. One parent commented, “Well I guess it’s just the latest fad, it’s like yoyos and swap cards when we were young. We were obsessed with them, but then the fad passed.”

The more I think about this comment, the more I am convinced that ‘Fortnite’ is NOT just another fad and is NOT like yoyos and swap cards. Here are the reasons why:

– The aim of Fortnite is to kill everyone else and be the ‘last man standing’ – players can work together in teams … but in the end the winner will need to ‘kill off’ their team mates too. This is hardly the moral stand-point we want for our children!
– To kill everyone else in the game, you need to use weapons – there is a lot of research which indicates that repeated computer simulated weapon play desensitises the player (the reason why the US military uses computer games to train it’s soldiers).
– There is an overwhelming body of research which proves that playing games like ‘Fortnite’ is addictive (the dopamine hits the brain gets while playing are seen to be the source of addiction).
– Fortnite players are hidden behind an avatar. As the game includes a facility to chat to each other, it means children could be spending hours communicating with complete strangers who may not be who they claim to be. They often don’t have the tools yet to deal with unsupervised and potentially inappropriate conversations with strangers.

There are so many healthy play and socialisation options for children. As adults, it is our responsibility to know and understand what the latest ‘fad’ is, and to make informed choices to ensure that our children are not being damaged by their play. Computer games are not just another fad (like yoyos and swap cards) – they have the ability to hamper the healthy development of the child and may even cause damage.

Nerrida

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Halloween

At school, we don’t celebrate Halloween and at home, there can be tremendous pressure to join in trick and treating, even if it doesn’t wholly match your family values, we warmly encourage you to withstand this pressure and instead find inspiration below to celebrate with reverence.
In ancient times Halloween was believed to be the time when the veil was thin between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Our ancestors could return to visit us, to give help and advice. People set lights in the hollowed out turnips to guide the spirits of the dead, and put out food as an offering. You no doubt have noticed that in modern times a materialistic aspect has crept in and celebrating and honouring our ancestors has been lost.
We’d like to offer some other ways to acknowledge this festival day and to have a wholesome and in context opportunity to discuss death and family ancestors.
  • Create a family altar: symbols of the season, pictures of beloved dead relatives and special things that may have belonged to them. In Mexico during the Day of the Dead, altars are made for particular family members and include their favourite food and objects of theirs, alongside cut out paper stars, clay figures and bread shaped like people.
  • Tell a story, one that you could repeat every Halloween, for example, Vasilisa a Russian Fairy Tale that includes that old witch Baba Yaga or the Little Hobgoblin which you will find by following this link.
  • Have an Ancestor Feast – prepare a meal that is traditional in your family from your heritage. Before you eat you can take a little from each dish and put on a plate in front of the picture of your relatives.
  • After the feast, or around the altar, you could light a candle,  sit back and tell a story about your ancestors. This could be a personal story about someone in your family or a traditional folktale or myth. You could pass around photos and recall memories. Who were your ancestors? Where did they come from? Did you ever meet your grandparents or great-grandparents? Talking about where we come from instils a sense of belonging and security in the children and also gives a healthy context to acknowledging death.
  • Baking and craft opportunities include carving turnips and pumpkins, making apple chains to represent the Isle of Apples (Celtic tradition) or have a go at making sugar skulls.
Halloween provides a wonderful opportunity to connect in meaningful and reverent ways both as a family and to our heritage.
For more information about Halloween and it’s true significance please read the article further along in this Bulletin.