Why We Walk the Advent Spiral

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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 the Waldorf School of Cape Cod as well as in many other Waldorf schools there is a tradition of the Advent Spiral. It helps us to prepare for the peaceful celebration of the winter festivals (Christmas among others).

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 center. The room is darkened and the mood is peaceful. The spiral begins; one at a time each child walks into the spiral with a lantern in which sits an unlit candle. They walk with or without help from teachers and or parents depending on their needs and make their way to the spiral’s center. There they find the large lighted candle and from it light their own. They place their lantern with care and with help if needed somewhere along the spiral’s path and then they walk their way back to their seat.

It is a special moment to watch a young child wend their way through the spiral’s path and find the universal light that they then take back to give to the world.

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.