In addition to using our Advent Spiral above on the dining table after dinner, as I mentioned in a previous post, we also honor it in the form of an Advent Spiral Walk during our Winter Solstice celebration. During the Spiral Walk, we celebrate the turning point in the year when the days become their shortest and the night its longest and we look for the light which comes from within. In the center of the spiral, a single candle is lit. Each child and adult walks the spiral alone to the center of the spiral, where they light their own candle to place along the spiral. When all have walked the path, the whole spiral is aglow with lights.
The Advent Spiral is an important part of our Waldorf-inspired calendar. It symbolizes finding Light in the darkness. Advent is not just one moment, it is a period of time. It is the few weeks before Christmas, and is a time of quiet preparation as we go into the darkest days of the year. The shortest day (in the northern hemisphere) is close to the end of December. This year, Winter Solstice fall on Friday, December 21. By the time we celebrate our holiday traditions, we have reached a turning point and the days begin to lengthen again, the daylight increasing. Nature will begin very slowly to reawaken.
The spiral image can be found in all cultures, ranging from primitive art to 21st century advertising. The spiral is often associated with the cycle of rebirth, time and seasons, and often a spiritual journey.
The Solstice Spiral Walk
The spiral walk is a festival that is practiced in most Waldorf schools on or near the winter solstice. The tradition honors the seasonal cycle of light and darkness by arranging a simple spiral labyrinth walk. Everything about the spiral walk is rooted in symbolic meaning: from the form of the spiral to the red apples, evergreen boughs, beeswax candles and the objects placed in the spiral.
The Spiral is one of nature’s many patterns and can be found in shells, flowers, pinecones, fingertips, and galaxies. In this festival honoring the return of light into the world, we use the spiral to represent the seasonal rhythms as well as representing the contemplative journey we take to find our own inner “light.”
The physical form of the spiral represents the celestial marking of the seasons. The beginning of the path marks the summer solstice. As we spiral inward through the labyrinth, it represents moving towards and through autumn, where the days grow shorter. The very center of the spiral symbolizes winter solstice: the darkest time of the year. Here we pause at the center before we spiral back outward through the growing light of spring toward the summer solstice.
This is a celebration of quiet confidence, of carrying Light in darkness, of sharing that Light with others. The journey each adult and child takes through the spiral also represents an inner journey to find his or her own “light” within. In the very center of ourselves, we discover our own beauty, strength, insight, and gifts that we offer the world. We then turn from this discovery within and carry our gifts of radiance back out into the world.
Red Apples are often used as candleholders during spiral walks and celebrations. Inside the fruit lies the seed, waiting patiently in darkness until the time comes to sprout. The apples represent the seeds of our hidden potential. We do not yet see the fruit of our labors with our children… but within each is the seed of the adults they will become.
Evergreen Trees are found in many myths, often representing the tree of life. These are the trees that weather the winter without going dormant. They represent the regenerative power of life, nature and the seasons. We use evergreen boughs to represent the sustaining abundance of life on our planet.
Beeswax Candles in Chinese culture are considered a symbol of eternal love and warmth. We use them as our light source in the darkness to symbolize that love is eternally present.
Kingdoms of Nature We celebrate the diversity of life on our planet by placing among the evergreen boughs objects that represent the kingdoms of nature: mineral, plant and animal. Crystals, seashells, feathers, pinecones, berries, oranges, and apples will be resting along the path.
Deep Mid-Winter drawing near,
Darkness in our Garden here --
One small flame yet bravely burns
To show a path which ever turns.
Earth, please bear us as we go,
Seeking Light to send a-glow:
Branches green and moss and fern,
Mark our path to trace each turn.
Brother animals, teach us too
To serve with patience as you do.
We walk with candle toward the Light
While Earth awaits with hope so bright:
In the Light which finds new birth
Love may spread o’er all the Earth.
Deep Mid-Winter drawing near --
May Light arise in our Garden here.