Updated: Feb 14
Simple Ideas for a Meaningful Waldorf Advent at Home Advent is approaching! If you are looking for a meaningful way to celebrate Advent in your home without too many sugary treats or gifts, this blog will give you some Waldorf-based ideas.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, but would like to bring an Advent tradition into your home, this blog is also for you. Many of these ideas could easily be adapted to celebrating the winter solstice, or used in December with no reference to Christmas.
Advent in Waldorf Schools
Advent is an important festival in Waldorf schools. Even though it comes from a Christian tradition, in Waldorf education, we focus on it as a reminder of light and love in the dark days of the year. Living on the west coast, with its many days of rain, celebrating Advent can be a lovely way to bring light and coziness to our short days.
In Waldorf schools, there are a number of Advent traditions. One, the Advent spiral walk, is usually practiced in the lower grades. Here at Sunrise Waldorf School, Kindergarten and Classes 1-2 usually observe this tradition.
Advent spirals are usually held indoors. Teachers create a spiral shape on the floor with evergreen boughs, and darken the room. The children take turns to light a candle in a holder, then walk the curving path. They leave their candles in the spiral, then return to their seats. The lit candles decorate the spiral and brighten the room, creating a magical effect.
Another tradition is to light a candle at the beginning of each week of Advent. Some classes may display an Advent wreath, while others exhibit more elaborate nature tables.
There is a theme for each week. This Advent verse, often recited or sung in class, explains the themes: The first light of Advent is the light of stone – Light that lives in crystals, seashells, and our bones. The second light of Advent is the light of plants – Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance. The third light of Advent is the light of beasts – The light of faith that we may see in greatest and in least. The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind – The light of hope, of thoughts and deeds, The light of hand, heart, and mind. Classes with nature tables add the appropriate theme to their displays each week: stones in the first week, plants in the second week, and so on. All of these ideas can also be used at home. In this blog we explain how, and share some ideas for simple, Waldorf-inspired Advent calendars. There are many options available, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Calendar Alternatives Advent Table This is essentially a nature table, decorated for Advent. You can either decorate a nature table you keep year-round, or create one specifically for this occasion. To make an Advent table, find a place in your home (a small table, part of a bookshelf, or even a windowsill) for your display. Then, slowly build it over the month of December, using the weekly themes mentioned earlier in this article: add stones in the first week, plants in the second, animal figurines in the third, and human beings last. You could include one or more candles, if you have the room, and light them on a designated day of the week. Many families use wax or felted animal and human figurines made by their children. These can become treasured objects that are well-loved, and fondly remembered year after year. You can either add new elements to the nature table yourself at night-time (after your child is asleep) to create a sense of magic, or ask your child to help you add items to the table. Here is a charming windowsill example from the Explore and Express blog. Advent Wreath This is a simple way to bring light into the dark month of December. Buy or make a wreath that includes four candle holders. Light a candle each week in December, on a designated day of the week. On the first week, only one candle will be lit, by the fourth, all the candles will glow. In a Waldorf home, the candles are traditionally lit after dinner, and the mood is kept quiet and reverent. People gather around the candles, then perhaps sing a song, and read a story. Another option is to simply light candles, and enjoy them, without a wreath. Often, just turning out the lights in a room and sitting by the warm glow can be magical. This photo, from the Freya-Sophia Waldorf store, shows a simple ring candle-holder that could work beautifully. Advent Spiral If you like the idea of an Advent spiral, you can bring this tradition home. Some people create spirals outside with stones, and others design them inside, marking the path with candles. This blog post from Sparkle Stories discusses how to build a spiral and use it. Advent Book For those who celebrate Christmas, here is an easy option without much preparation. The book The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits: A Christmas Story for Advent has 25 chapters. Read one chapter each day, starting on December 1 for a no-fuss Advent. Calendars If you like Advent calendars, there are many options. Calendars can be used to count the days until Christmas, Solstice, or another holiday. Spiral Calendars These wonderful, yet simple calendars can be a fun way to mark the days of Advent, without much preparation. Here is one example from the Freya-Sophia Waldorf store. As you can see in the photo, an object or candle is placed in the wooden ring each day. Here is a homemade example from the In These Hills blog. A star marks each day of Advent, and the child moves a stone or other small object from one star to the next. This example was made for Solstice. On Solstice (the centre of the spiral) the candle was lit. An easy-to-make option is a stone spiral, as outlined in the Rhythms of Play blog. To use this spiral, replace one stone with a candle each day. By the end, it will be a candle spiral, full of light and warmth. Felt Pocket Calendar If you love crafting and sewing, this is the option for you! Our own Katherine Lampson, Admissions and Communications Director, made this lovely calendar out of felted wool. There are five pockets on the calendar, and the Advent gnome picks a gift out of one pocket each day. (Pockets are refilled as needed.) Another example is this felt calendar (with a tutorial) from The Merry Thought blog. Envelope and Clothespin Calendars If you don’t have the time (or the inclination) to sew something, consider either an envelope or clothespin calendar. Here is an example of an envelope calendar from Julie Blanner. It is easily made of kraft envelopes and washi or painter’s tape. You could even use regular mailing envelopes! Here is a clothespin calendar from the Old Salt Farm blog. Calendar Content Once you have found a type of calendar that works for you, the next step is deciding what your child will find each day of Advent (excluding the spiral calendars, of course). Traditionally, the little pockets on calendars contain sweets, but there are other options. Meaningful Gifts Consider choosing simple, small gifts that fulfill a purpose or inspire an activity. For example, you could put a few crayons in a pocket that will be used later that day to make a card for a family member. Or place a small stone in an envelope for the Advent table. Songs or Stories You could also try writing the names of favourite songs or books on small pieces of paper to hide in the calendar. Then sing the song or read the book when chosen. This is a lovely way to connect with your child. You can also emphasize material that will be meaningful to you and your family at this time of year. Activities Many families write down various activities on slips of paper, then hide them in the calendars to be completed on the day they are discovered. These could include simple things like going for a walk in the woods, drinking warm herbal tea, or playing a favourite family game. They can also inspire random acts of kindness. Of course, all of these categories (meaningful gifts, songs/stories, and activities) could be mixed together, if you prefer variety! However you choose to journey through December, we hope you are able to find warm light on the darkest days, and enjoy time spent with your loved ones.