Festivals & Celebrations throughout the Year
Just as each day in the Waldorf classroom follows its own rhythm, so does the school year. Observing the changing seasons helps the children to work in tune with nature by fostering a sense of harmony with the rhythmic life of the natural world throughout the year.
The Upper Valley Waldorf School observes the cycle of the year through both traditional and lesser-known festivals. We strive to bring a universal nature to our celebrations of festivals through their connection with the rhythms of the earth. The ceremonies and rituals associated with them help reveal the deeper significance of many everyday occurrences. We feel they embrace the qualities of hope, courage, joy, gratitude, love, and reverence which are part of a natural spiritual quality of humanity and the world in which we live.
The passing year is further punctuated by weekly and seasonal assemblies in which each class performs a sample of its work for the others, enabling the children to reflect on where they have been and confidently anticipate their future growth.
- Martinmas Lantern Walks
- Advent and Festivals of Light
- Saint Nicholas Day
- Santa Lucia
- The Winter Fair
- May Fair
Celebrations and Rites of Passage within Classes
- Early Childhood Doll-Naming Ceremony
- Rose Ceremony - First Day of School
- Class Plays
- Music Night
- Third Grade Farm Trip
- Fifth Grade Pentathlon
- Sixth Grade Knighting Ceremony & Medieval Games
- Seventh Grade French Trip
- Eighth Grade Class Trip
- Rose Ceremony - Last Day of School
- Eighth Grade Graduation
This autumn festival includes a play put on by students about St. George, who, empowered by the courage of the Archangel Michael, subdues the dragon with his sword. This festival also includes a community work day and afterschool activities that celebrate the harvest season. Michaelmas usually takes place at the end of September.
St. Martin of Tours was a fourth-century Roman solider. He was a deeply religious man who shared his cloak with a beggar, and thus represents the attitude of brotherliness. During the time of shorter days approaching winter, we are reminded that the inner light of man wants to shine forth. The children hear the story of St. Martin, sing songs and, as darkness falls, venture out into the night, walking along a path lit with glowing luminaries while carefully carrying lanterns. Kindergarten children, younger grade children, and parents participate in Lantern Walks in November.
As the waning days of autumn reach their darkest at the winter solstice, we yearn for the return of warmth and light. At this time of year, many cultures celebrate holidays seeking to renew both the inner and outer light of our lives. There is a special mood of quiet contemplation that brings us into a deeper relationship with the world around us as manifest in the four kingdoms of nature – mineral, plant, animal and human. During this time, the Friday assembly includes seasonal songs and the lighting of the Advent wreath and Hanukkah menorah.
We offer an evening Advent Spiral for younger children and their families. Each child carries an apple and walks to the center of a spiral. From a central flame, the child lights his or her own candle and carries it outward to place it on the spiral path. This simple ceremony is a powerful inspiration for the children as well as the parents. The mood is quiet, reverent and tranquil.
European tradition tells us about Bishop Nicholas and his silent servant Rupert, who visited children. On the eve of December 5, the children leave their shoes out for St. Nicholas, hoping he will deliver them a treat. In addition to small gifts, such as clementines, St. Nicholas delivers to classrooms a scroll with verses about the strengths of each child.
The light and warmth of Santa Lucia is based upon a beautiful story from Sweden. A young woman, Lucia, ventures into the cold winter to feed and bring a message of hope to people suffering from harsh winter conditions. Our Santa Lucia is represented by the eldest female student at the school. She and her second-grade helpers, clothed in white gowns with red sashes, present saffron buns and cookies to the whole school.
The Parent Association organizes an annual holiday fair for our community. Throughout the year, parents work together as they organize crafts, food, and activities for the event. The Early Childhood faculty often performs a beautiful marionette show. This special event is an opportunity for the entire school to share our gifts with the broader Upper Valley community.
This celebration includes Maypole dancing, games, music, and food. It is held at the beginning of May to celebrate the arrival of Spring and the beauty it brings to our campus and our lives as we move through the cycle of the seasons.
The Doll-Naming Ceremony is the culmination of an extended period of work by Kindergarten children who have sewn their own dolls. This special ceremony takes place in the Kindergartens at the end of each year for those children ready to rise to the first grade. Parents join the circle of children and teachers as each doll is lovingly named by the child who made it.
The first day of school is a rite of passage for the incoming first grade children—the beginning of their journey through grade school. All of the grade classes are assembled along with parents, faculty, and staff. Kindergarten parents and children are also invited. Each first grade child is welcomed to the school by shaking the hand of their class teacher and receiving a rose presented by students in the highest grade.
Seasonal assemblies are held before the Thanksgiving, February, and Spring breaks. These assemblies give teachers and students an opportunity to share their class work, from both main lesson and subject classes, with each other, with parents, and with the greater community. Weekly assemblies are held on Friday mornings at 8:20 a.m. in the school auditorium and include seasonal songs, instrumental pieces, and works-in-progress from the classroom.
Students in each grade work on a dramatic presentation that draws from the curriculum of that year. Through a creative production, the arts of speech, music and movement are reinforced in the students.
Held in the spring, Music Night is a celebration of the many musical accomplishments of our students in grades 3-8. Selections for strings, recorders and chorus are presented.
The pinnacle of the third grade’s year-long practical work of farming and gardening is a multi-day stay to a resident farm in the spring. The children observe and participate in the daily tending of animals and raising plants. For some students, this is their first overnight trip apart from parents. As the nine-year-old child awakens to a sense of self independent from their families, the farm trip reinforces a budding feeling of inner security and confidence.
The culmination of the fifth grade year-long study of ancient civilizations is a two-day Pentathlon event, traditionally hosted by Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, VT. Students from seven regional Waldorf schools come together and are organized into four mixed-school city-state teams. These teams participate in the classic Greek pentathlon events of javelin, discus, long jump, running and ring wrestling. The Pentathlon challenges the students to strive for their personal best in the social, artistic and athletic realms.
As the culmination of their study of the history and culture of the Middle Ages, the sixth grade embarks on a journey to knighthood for themselves. After much personal reflection and completing tasks of community service, each student finds a sponsor, designs a personal motto and coats of arms, and participates in a class knighting ceremony in the late spring. This rite of passage is followed by an all-day Medieval Games tournament involving challenges of the body, heart and mind.
Awash in studies of the Age of Discovery, seventh grade students explore new territory while gaining practical experience with the French language with a spring trip to Quebec City. This multi-day stay gives students a taste of the history, culture, gastronomy and way of life in this diverse Canadian city. Students practice their spoken and written French through daily excursions to museums, restaurants and outdoor recreation areas.
At the end of their eight years, classes embark upon a journey together. The eighth grade trip is intended to be an experience that challenges the students as individuals, as well as calls upon them to work together in a team. Service and time outdoors are often trip components, along with plenty of time for fun and reflection. The class trip may occur in the autumn or spring, at the teacher’s discretion.
The school year ends as it begins, with the entire school gathering for a Rose Ceremony. The first grade students now give roses to the graduating eighth grade students, who will be going off to high school. The eighth graders traditionally wear items they have made themselves in their Handwork classes.
Each year we celebrate the commencement of our 8th grade class. This occasion is a time for our community to share and reflect on memories and accomplishments and to say farewell to our oldest students. We listen to their speeches and observe their artistic offerings with pride as we acknowledge all that these young people have become.