The sense of the sacred at the school has to do with the recognition (or maybe it’s hope) that time doesn’t just pass, it is taking us somewhere. The Waldorf seasonal festivals mark this journey in a way that resonates with the journey of other peoples across time, and suggests meaning and mystery

Throughout history and in all civilizations, there are rituals reflecting nature’s rhythms, important transitions, and significant moments in the cycle of the year and the life of the culture. For people today, festivals can help provide a real touchstone with the cycles of the earth and the soul nurturing they provide. Reverence, ritual and rhythm are three integrated aspects of Waldorf education. Our present culture does not always value these qualities as much as we may in our homes. Sensationalism, sensory stimulation, advertising and competitiveness are but a few contemporary trends that undermine our capacity for reverence. In the speed and busyness of our contemporary world, it often helps to be reminded of more enduring values. Establishing an environment in which each day is rhythmically ordered and the year is marked at special moments with rituals and celebrations helps create a secure foundation from which to grow. In Waldorf schools, the elements of festival — light, food, song, and story — permeate the life of the school, and help establish the cadence of the year. 

At Whatcom Hills, teachers, parents, and children work together in joy and celebration to bring to life our many colorful festivals.

 

Wildflower Ceremony  

On the first day of school, the students in the Eighth Grade welcome the newest members of the grades — the Grade One students — with a welcoming ceremony. Each Eighth Grader presents each First Grader with a posy of wild flowers, creating a bond between the oldest and the youngest students in the school. This bond continues throughout the First Graders’ first year in school, as the Eighth Graders come to their classroom to help them in handwork class, guiding them lovingly as they learn to knit. The First Graders look up to their Eighth Grade mentors, and the Eighth Graders know that their actions are being observed, and often mirrored, by their young charges.  When the Eighth Graders reach the end of the year, the First Graders crown each one with a ring of rose buds during the Rose Ceremony symbolizing the end of their journey at Whatcom Hills. 

Michaelmas 

Since ancient days, there have been celebrations all around the world to honor the time of the harvest and the changing of the year from summer’s bounty to the darkness of winter ahead. Some celebrations include the story of the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon in heaven. Others recount the story of the Roman soldier, later named St. George, who saves an entire village by slaying a dragon. These stories form a metaphoric picture of this turning point of the year and help us focus on ideas of goodness and courage triumphing over evil. During the season of Michaelmas, this imagery can strengthen us to find the courage to conquer our own personal dragons and to find our best and truest selves. At our school, it is traditional to celebrate Michaelmas with a Harvest Festival featuring an outdoor play put on by all the children about a great dragon. Afterwards, the whole community enjoys ‘Dragon bread’ and fresh pressed hot apple cider to warm the hands and the heart.

Martinmas  

“Glimmer lantern glimmer, little stars a-shimmer, Over meadow, moor and dale, Flitter-flutter, elfin veil...” At the end of autumn and before the darkness of winter descends, many Waldorf schools celebrate Martinmas with a magical lantern walk. Our younger children craft beautiful lanterns in the classroom and then join their families at the waning of the day at a nearby park or on the school grounds to walk together singing songs while proudly holding their shining light to guide the way. A hoot of an owl, a crack of a stick, the sighing of the wind, glowing lights weaving in the dark...for the children this is a beautiful and memorable experience and is symbolic of sharing their own individual light as the darkness of winter approaches.

Santa Lucia 

At Waldorf schools, Second Grade teachers introduce stories where contrasting human qualities are portrayed. Animal fables and trickster tales explore the idea of mischief, while legends of Saints and wonder tales from around the world show lofty striving and noble human qualities. The story of Santa Lucia dates back to the Middle Ages. She is known for bringing food and care to the people of Sweden during a harsh famine. She wore a wreath of candles on her head to light the way and to have her hands free in order to offer food and lingonberries to symbolize new life in winter. At Whatcom Hills, around December 13th, our Second Graders experience the story of Santa Lucia as they walk through the school with their own lights and song, bringing Swedish ginger cookies and tea to all the classes during the main lesson. 

Winter Spiral 

The days have become shorter, the autumn winds have blown away the vibrant colorful leaves and nature has begun its inward turning, its winter sleep. For some of us it is time for reflection; indeed, there are probably many of us who feel inclined to hibernate and emerge in spring! It is just at this time, approaching the Winter Solstice, that we share a simple and beautiful celebration called the Winter Spiral. In our softly lit hall suffused with gentle music, a spiral of fragrant cedar boughs marks a path where each person is invited to walk in quiet contemplation carrying a little light. The experience is moving and magical and reminds us of that small, enduring light that flickers within each of us in the darkest night. 

Winter Faire  

Winter Faire is the biggest community event of the year. It is a gorgeous seasonal gift to both our school and the broader Bellingham community. As the darkness of winter reaches its peak, the school’s grounds and classrooms are brightened with sparkling lights, evergreen boughs, and the entire school is magically transformed. Part celebration, part fundraiser, part community education event, parents from every class join together to create the Gnome Village, the Wooden Spoon Cafe (brimming with delicious hot soups and cookies and a stage filled with beautiful music), and the palace of the Snow Queen herself! Classrooms become craft rooms where one can learn to make Waldorf-style items such as beeswax candles and wax paper stars, or purchase  handmade items by local artisans. A highlight for many are the magical puppet shows which are lovingly staged by our talented Early Childhood teachers.

Winter Offering  

On the last week before our winter break, there is an opportunity for our school to come together to share a moment of quiet beauty. Our hall is dimly lit, everyone silently forms a circle and then each class, including faculty and staff, has a chance to share a song, a poem or a verse that captures the mood of reverence and goodness. In this contemplative and hope-filled atmosphere, we part until the new term starts in January. This is not a performance and as such, does not have an audience, however, anyone from the school community is welcome to be part of the circle.

Auction Gala 

Our Annual Spring Auction Gala is a festive, creative, adults-only event that is put on with the help of our whole community. Often thought of as the best party in town, this critical fundraising/outreach event supports major capital and programmatic initiatives. Participants enjoy both silent and live bidding with a sit down meal in a beautiful off-campus setting. Although our auction is well known for our enthusiasm to dress up, and the variety of beautifully handcrafted items we procure, the highlight is always the class projects lovingly made by the children with help from the parents and teachers.

Grandparents & Friends Day 

At Whatcom Hills we understand that it takes a village to raise a child, and that our students have special people in their lives who have contributed to their well-being and who don’t always get a chance to come and visit their school. On Grandparents and Special Friends Day, we cordially invite our very important extended community - the elders and mentors of our students - to join us for a welcome tea, to greet the children in their classes, and to attend a special assembly involving all the grades. It is a heartwarming day in which we honor and celebrate the connections between the generations. 

May Faire  

May Day is a beautiful festival honoring the changing of the seasons from darkness to light. The tree of life was part of this ritual and is now represented by the Maypole. Our school’s May Faire festival features flower crowns, spring activities, live music and, of course, dancing around the Maypole. Children, families and friends come with picnics and blankets, dressed in white and pastels and enjoy being together as a community. Each class presents their own dance, creating a more intricate design as they move through the grades. The class dances are followed by a community Maypole dance where all are invited to join.

Rose Ceremony  

When the Eighth Graders reach the end of the year and the end of their journey with us at Whatcom Hills, the First Graders who were so lovingly welcomed by them at the beginning of the year crown each one with a ring of rose buds collected and crafted by our parent body. This poignant moment represents coming full circle and allows the students, teachers and family members time to reminisce about memories of their years and a chance to say goodbye. These rose crowns symbolize the cultivated young adults the students have grown to be, and their incredible potential as they leave the comfort of our beautiful school and enter the wider world. 

8th Grade Graduation  

The culmination of eight, ten, or even more years of a Waldorf education is the graduation ceremony, held the Saturday after classes end. This is no ordinary graduation. Instead, the graduation ceremony at WHWS is a celebration of all that Waldorf education holds dear: music and art; kindness and respect; community and sharing; humor and reverence; friendship and family. Each class is asked to contribute finger food, and to join in this magnificent tribute to the students, their dedicated classroom teacher, their many specialty teachers, their devoted parents and relatives, and Waldorf education at WHWS. This is the best way to understand just how profound an experience your child is going through at WHWS.

 

The cycle of the year is a mighty breathing of the earth in relation to the cosmos 

- Rudolf Steiner


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