One of the things Casuarina Steiner School does really well is the festivals. I’m not sure whether they are consistent across all schools, whether they are proscribed in Steiner’s Indications or whether they are unique to each school, but anyway, we celebrate the summer and winter solstices and the arrivals of Autumn and Spring with festivals.
The winter festival is very atmospheric: we start at about 4:30pm with soup and apple crumble, cooked up by parents and brought into school. Parents who aren’t cooking help to set up, serve and clean up the food and everyone brings their own mug or bowl and spoon.
Our class is blessed with superb cooks, one of whom (Italian!) threw in a secret tiramisu which the adults “saved” from the children on the basis that it contained both coffee and alcohol…
After we’d eaten and cleaned up it was dark and we followed all the children of the school who carried hand-made lanterns containing tea lights in a grand procession through the campus, class by class, to gather in the sports field.
Looking back up the hill you can see Class One silhouetted against the sky. All these photos, by the way, were taken on my little Nikon ‘coolpix’ P1 digital camera, using aperture priority and no flash. I have fairly steady hands!
After the lantern parade Sally and Todd gave us a brilliant fire-twirling display and then we made our way back up to the classrooms for the spiral walk. In age order, each child takes an unlit candle inwards around a spiral of greenery to their teacher who lights the candle and the child walks outwards around the spiral, placing their candle in turn amongst the leaves and flowers.
The atmosphere is quiet and contemplative, the classroom dark except for the candles. As the children place their candles around the spiral the level of light in the classroom increases as we move outwards from the darkest day in the year towards the light.
For me, of course, the year here is backwards in contrast to my northern European upbringing. In January Australia is in mid-summer, not mid-winter and so Christmas is uncomfortably warm and bright at a time when my whole body and psyche are attuned to cold and darkness. It is, therefore, slightly odd to be celebrating the winter solstice in June… but in a funny way I feel this uncomfortably upside-down calendar saves me from my northern European winter blues! How can I be miserable when, even in mid-winter, it’s sunny? And just as the year passes the halfway mark and slides back down through Autumn to Winter I’m experiencing the joys of Spring, complete with narcissi in my garden tubs and expensive tulips in the shops.