The holiday season can start to become a blur of twinkle lights, rushing from store to store, a whimsy of celebration and an apex of excitement by Christmas morning. It can feel like a whirlwind of a season. There is so much energy being extended outside of yourself, which can feel like too much, during a time of year that asks us to slow way down.
People literally have Christmas (holiday) hangovers from it all. That should be a bigger sign of how we aren't honoring our bodies, and the gentle ask of the changing season, which is why I love the Advent tradition.
It offers us an opportunity to slow down during these winter months. To reflect on the darkest time of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere) and bring it back, to quiet reminders, that we are here for more than just consumerism and extending ourselves to exhaustion. Finding ourselves in the ancient flicker of the Advent flame.
"As the days continue to darken, humans throughout time have counted down to the winter solstice. This has represented itself differently in different cultures, but in each celebration the primary objective is to celebrate the days when the sun's light is reborn within us, and we turn toward longer days and shorter nights. In this way, this is a “human” celebration rather than a denominational one.
While the term Advent may have a Christian connotation, the definition of advent is the waiting for the arrival of a notable event. Advent in this way can be celebrated in our hemisphere as the 4 weeks leading up to the winter solstice.
In Anthroposophy, the philosophy upon which Waldorf Education is founded, the four-fold human being is represented with physical, etheric (life force), astral and ego, (I or individuality bodies.) The physical is manifested in the minerals that make up life on earth. It is the will force. These are represented as bones, shells, crystals, stones, etc. These things are lifeless and exist only in the physical plane. The etheric can be thought of as the force that brings life to those minerals. The blood of the human or the sap of a tree flowing throughout the organism and bringing life and health. The astral body is the emotional body of the organism. It is where our feelings or instincts reside. And our highest self, our individuality is where the light lives. Think of the buddhist namaste, the light in me sees the light in you. It is the highest level of earthly human development.
Only the human being can possess all four of these bodies. Plants have a physical and an etheric nature. Animals have a physical, etheric and astral nature. It is only the human that can take those primal elements and add the highest gift of all to them, the gift of free thought. A human can possess the characteristics of these lower forces, but it is only with the ability for free thought, can they rise above primal instincts and bring warmth of thinking to ourselves and others. To be able to see another, past the physical, the cultural, and emotional differences into the individuality of each human is the goal of anthroposophy and Waldorf education.
During these four weeks we mark and celebrate the coming of this warmth, the sun, the heart force, the golden element, the individuality in me that can see the individuality in you.
To honor this highest ability of human achievement, we look to celebrate each of our four-fold elements, one per week, each of the four weeks leading to the solstice. Week one we will honor the physical world. Week two we honor the plant kingdom. Week three we honor the animal kingdom and finally on week four, we honor the human and the capacity to rise out of all these lower elements and achieve our highest selves.
During these four weeks make a simple moss garden where you can slowly build a place of honor for these elements. This can be a simple dish or saucer that you place moss from the woods as a base. Each day have your child mist/water the garden. It will be a lovely reminder of the life below the snows as the earth gets colder during the coming winter days. In addition, each week, take your child out in nature and collect elements of that week.
During the first week, collect seashells and crystals and stones. During the second week, collect pinecones, acorns, berries and dried plants. During the third week look for feathers, antlers, or fur. And finally in the fourth week, find ways of practicing compassion and empathy for fellow humans. Find the light within yourself to shine for others.
On the 21st, the sun will be reborn and the wheel of life will turn as it has for millennia and that will connect us to all the festivals of light celebrated by so many cultures across the globe and through the centuries. And the light inside you will shine bright enough for you to share with others." Waldorf Advent Verse - Advent Stories Waldorf – Enchantmints
The first light of Advent is the light of stones The light that shines in crystals in seashells and in bones
The second light of Advent is the light of plants Green plants that reach up to the light and in the breezes dance
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts That shines in all creatures in greatest and in least
The fourth light of Advent is the human light The light of hope and of thought, to know and do what’s right
~ Rudolf Steiner ~