Advent starts this year on Sunday the 28th of November and is celebrated for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, Advent season ends on Christmas Eve. 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”. Advent can be seen as the time for transforming the fallen parts of our souls, so we can truly meet the holiness of the Christmas birth or the light.
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.
During this time, we deepen our relationship to the world around us by recognizing and celebrating the strength and beauty of all four kingdoms of the natural world which is why 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.
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.
Additional articles on Advent: (please be mindful that these are older with non-current dates listed)
Festivals punctuate our months, years and indeed lives. They give them meaning. They show how we have grown, how we have journeyed on the voyage to “knowing ourselves” and how that “knowing” is expressed in how we engage with others. But for festivals to be meaningful, we need to engage with them consciously.
Advent is that time of the year when we can come to terms with the consequences of the error & evil that is in our own astral nature, reflected in our society so strongly today, as well as doing the work to develop the strength to overcome these tendencies so that we might prepare the way for the birth of Christ in us at Christmas-tide. This is our activity now for every human being during Advent. It is in this confrontation & transformation of evil in our lives, in our time, that we can begin to……offer back to the divine what has fallen away, out of freedom.
Advent is a true festival of our current time in world evolution – a karmic call for humanity to awaken to our path of spiritual development with its focus on the confrontation with evil.
We celebrate Advent to awaken our connection with the cosmic purpose in the Universe. Can we use this time to become more aware of the way in which we are disconnected from our source? Can we strive to awaken our purpose, as we work to remember our Divine origin?