Shepherd Valley Waldorf School K - 8
Winter - Festivals of Light
shepherd valley students

Winter is the time of cold and darkness and the time of going within.

Advent – The four weeks prior to Christmas

Advent is from the Latin “adventus”, the arrival or the coming in of the spirit of joy and peace.  This is a time to reflect on the past year and looking forward to the coming year.  For children, it is a time of waiting and anticipation.  Each Monday morning during Advent, the children are gathered together for a special story and lighting of candles.  Each Advent week is represented by one of the four kingdoms:  mineral, plant, animal and human kingdom 

Advent Spiral

The Kindergarten and the younger grades children will participate in walking the pine bough spiral path bringing light into the darkness. 

St. Nicholas Day - December 6

Saint Nicholas Day is a European tradition in which Bishop Nicholas and his silent servant Rupert visit children.  Saint Nicholas often visits the classrooms and reads from his golden book which records the deeds of all the children, and afterwards he leaves gifts for the children.  On the eve of December 5, in many traditions, children place their shoes outside the door hoping Saint Nicholas will leave a treat.  (Saint Nicholas also comes to childrens’ homes.)

shepherd valley waldorf school

Santa Lucia - December 13

According to the old Julian calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year.  The ancient people were very much aware of the diminishing daylight and feared the cold and hunger that accompanied the sun’s decline.  Men yearned for a friendly spirit to intercede, restoring light to the earth.  Over many centuries, this spirit of light became personified in St. Lucia, the Queen of Light.  In the present day, St. Lucia’s Day is most commonly celebrated in Sweden.  Families all over Sweden are awakened by “Lucia”, who is usually the eldest daughter and comes singing the ancient Sicilian song “Santa Lucia”.  Dressed in white and wearing a crown of lighted candles, she presents saffron buns and Christmas cookies to members of the family.  Students in the Second Grade often participate in this festival as part of the study of saints.


Near the time of the winter solstice, the people of the Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, in remembrance of a miracle that took place in Palestine over 2100 years ago.  This festival is a rededication of the Jewish people to the ideals of religious freedom and political liberty under God.  The Hanukkah festival lasts eight days.  The principal ceremony is the lighting of the Menorah candles, following the same ritual as in the original ceremony.  The candles symbolize faith, freedom, courage, love, charity, integrity, knowledge and peace.

The Shepherds’ Play

Faculty and staff traditionally perform the reverential and humorous medieval nativity play as a gift to the students and school community.  This tradition of “The Shepherds’ Play” is observed in most Waldorf schools throughout the world.

Christmas - December 25

In the Christmas festival the great image is of a birth, surrounded by love; the Christ child in the stable, with the mother and father, shepherds and animals.  In the dark of winter, the son, “the light of the world”, has been born, just after the winter solstice when the light is now returning.  It is the birth of the sun in the deepest darkness of the year.

Kwanzaa — December 26–January 1

The festival of Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Karenja.  It was created so African Americans could learn about African culture as well as remember and celebrate their history.  One of the most important elements of the celebration is the acknowledgment of the seven principals: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).

Three Kings Day - January 6

Three Kings Day is the twelfth day of Christmas, and the first day of Epiphany which lasts four weeks in the Christian Church.  This festival is still celebrated in Spain and other countries.  The children often polish and place their shoes in the windows and receive gifts from the three Magi. 

Candlemas- February 2

Candlemas occurs forty days after Christmas and is the day that Mary presented Jesus at the temple.  Many families have started the tradition of making and blessing candles on this day.

Groundhog Day - February 2

People watch to see if the groundhog will see his shadow.  If it is sunny and he does, more winter weather lies ahead for forty days.  If he doesn’t, then we will have an early spring.

Valentine’s Day - February 14

Long before St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, a festival was held in ancient Rome during February in honor of the great god Pan.  The festival was called Lupercalia and one of the customs was for the names of young men and women to be drawn in lottery fashion to choose token sweethearts.  During the third century, the Bishop Valentine of Rome was martyred on the eve of the festival of Lupercalia.  He was a man noted for his goodness and chastity and eventually the day acquired his name.  The element of chance and the theme of love remain.  Cards are often sent to declare a person’s love.  Flowers, red heart shapes, lace, doilies and birds are symbols of this celebration.  There is an old belief that birds also chose their mates on this day for spring nesting.  For children today, it is the element of surprise of a pretty card rather than romantic notions that holds enjoyment of the day.  This favorite day of the heart is celebrated in the classrooms with small “parties” and the exchanging of Valentine cards.  Children are encouraged to make their own cards.


Very early in Jewish history, the Jews were slaves.  With God’s help, they won their way out of slavery and into freedom.  The experience of being slaves and of struggling for freedom taught the Jews that all men must be free if they are truly to be men.  The Jews learned that there is no true freedom unless all men are free.  Passover (Pesach) is a double celebration: the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Festival of Freedom.