Come November, the winds blow cold reminding us all that the chill of winter is coming. The days continue to darken and so we begin to bank the fires of our home life that will help nurture us through the dark winter’s cold.
Advent is approaching: a time for inner preparation as we look forward to kindling the inner light that glows within us all. At many Waldorf schools there is a tradition of the Advent (or Solstice) Spiral.
An Advent Spiral walk is a celebration of quiet confidence, of carrying light in darkness, of sharing that light with others. It is often included as a part of winter festivals on, or near, the winter solstice. It is a worldwide tradition that honours the natures seasonal rhythms and the light within.
The Advent Spiral began in the 1920s when a curative nurse brought it into a group home dedicated to the care of children with disabilities. She had been inspired by the custom from long ago in Bavaria, where farmers would bring moss and twigs into their homes and fashion a garden on a table, which was lit with candles in apples. For them it was an expression of an old parable of Paradise. Later the festival was brought to Waldorf Schools all over the world.
Evergreen boughs (a symbol of life everlasting) are placed in a spiral form on the floor with a large candle in its centre. The room is darkened and the mood is peaceful. The spiral begins; one at a time each person walks into the spiral with an unlit candle. They make their way to the spiral’s centre, and there they find a large lighted candle, and from it light their own. They then make their way back to their seat through the spiral, placing their lit candle with care somewhere along the spiral’s path. The lights brighten the path for those who come after. Each person walks alone, at their own pace, in their own way.
The experience of the Advent Spiral reflects the human experience at this time of the year; entering a time of darkness, of shorter days and longer nights, and going forward with hope to welcome the light of the sun after the winter solstice.
Creating an Advent Spiral at Home
Advent Spirals can be done big or small, as a single person/family walking a double spiral made of evergreen boughs, or in a group setting in a very large spiral labyrinth. The mood as a single person/family can be reflective and beautiful while a lyre plays, or quiet and sacred while shared with many.
The basic elements of a Winter Spiral: 1. Create a Spiral using pine tree boughs, lanterns, leaves, or other. 2. Have each participant carry a light or candle. You could put your unlit candle inside an apple to make placing it easier, or use a battery operated tea light that is switched on when the participant reaches the centre candle. 3. Walk towards the centre of the spiral where there is a larger candle to use to light the smaller candle. 4. Then place the now lit candle along the spiral. Or, just walk into the centre and then back out with the lit candle. 5. Consider having the onlookers singing or saying a verse, or some quiet music playing (from a single voice or instrument).
Also, here you will find a wonderful short story you can share with your little ones about a boy who discovers some elves who have an Advent spiral just like he does.