Just as nature follows seasonal rhythms, so does our festival calendar. Each season we have one festival to celebrate nature’s rhythms, the human soul and community.
In the Autumn, we celebrate Martinmas, commonly referred to as the Lantern Walk. This is a festival that occurs around November 11th and is often scheduled so the next day is a weekend day or holiday. During that time of year, the sunlight is dwindling and it is dark already by 5:30 p.m. We gather with children and parents to remember that it is time to kindle the light within by bringing warmth to our hearts and our community.
A typical festival will include a puppet play performed by teachers and a lantern walk around the building. The preschool children create lanterns before the festival and the Center has spare lanterns to share with toddler families and guests. The festival ends by 6:30 p.m. so families can return home end the evening according to their personal nighttime rhythms. It’s a special event and the imprint lives on in our souls through the dark days ahead, reminding us of the light!
In the Winter, on or near February 2nd, we celebrate Candlemas. That is the time of year when we notice that the light is returning and every day is a little bit longer. The light that we have been holding in our hearts throughout the dark midwinter days is now present once again in nature. Given the quiet inward nature of winter, this festival happens during the day and although it is subdued, it is a rich sensory experience. On this day we make candles.
The children gather in small groups around a pot of warmed beeswax; they walk around it dipping their wicks into the wax each time they pass the pot. The air is permeated by the smell of beeswax and the sound of the children singing as they circle the table. After dipping the wick many times into the pot, a candle is formed and they hang them to dry before taking them home to share with their families.
In the Spring, near the beginning of May, we celebrate Mayday. That festival occurs at the end of the morning in our outdoor area where spring flowers are blooming and the light is bright. The festival includes a puppet play and then a procession to the Maypole. Once there, the children circle the pole holding ribbons in their hands and singing. They take turns holding the ribbons and when they are done, everyone enjoys a snack in the garden before going home or returning inside for the afternoon program.
In the Summer, we celebrate the Midsummer Festival on or near the summer solstice. At this time of year, the sun is at its highest point in the sky and we acknowledge the longest day of the year. At this festival, the children make fairy necklaces. We gather in the yard to share an evening meal with potluck dishes and grilled food. We have a singalong with guitar and folk music. We have a special ritual to celebrate the children who are five and older who may be moving to a new school. Then we gather in a circle to gather the gifts of nature and of community before going home.