A former parent at Whidbey Island Waldorf School gifted me with a beautiful, handmade cradle for my classroom. The timing was wonderful because as we speak another former parent is making a new baby doll for my class who will arrive after the winter break. This week I brought the cradle into the room. Some of the little children asked, “Why is this here?” And I replied, “We are getting ready for a new baby to come.” One little girl didn’t want to leave school until the baby arrived. She wanted to see the baby now.
This sentiment is universal among the world’s two and three year olds. They want what they want and they want it right now. But, having to wait is important for the child’s development. Waiting allows the child to experience anticipation for skills he will gain and develop the capacity to cope with struggles he will face later in life. I love this quote on the pleasure of waiting:
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If for example, you came at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites.” (From the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Seasonally, we are entering into a period of waiting. As darkness increases we longingly prepare for the coming of new light, celebrated in many religions in mid-winter festivals. The winter solstice marks the shortest period of daylight in the year and in the Northern Hemisphere takes place in the December solstice. Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. It can also be observed as the anticipation of Winter Solstice and the return of the Sun. Advent, literally meaning the approach, the coming, can be marked with small, daily rituals over four weeks. It can be a gift to allow ourselves to fully enter into this dark period of waiting. To turn off all the lights and sit in glow of candle light or fire light in the evening. To allow holiday decorations to go up slowly — to wait for the celebration.
In advent wreaths the first of four candles is lit on the first Sunday in this period. From the second Sunday two candles burn… and so on. The journey toward the light may be enhanced by giving attention to the four kingdoms of nature. During the first week stones and crystals are celebrated. The second week plants, which live upon the hard matter of earth, are added. The third week our thoughts go to animals which live on what earth and plants offer. Finally, as four candles are lit, the human being is noted in her place in the fullness of life on earth as the coming of light into the world is about to be celebrated.
With each week, a verse can be added as the candles are lit…
The first light of Advent is the light of the stones – that shines in the seashells, crystals, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of the plants – that reach up for the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of the beasts – light of hope that shines in the greatest and the least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind – light of love and friendship in our heart, hands and mind.
What are ways you mark this time in the cycle of the year? I would love to hear the rituals, traditions and celebrations that live in your family.
Over stars angels wander with their shimmery shining robes
Radiant streams of starlight gather for the gift of love that they hold
Throngs of stars behold their passing, all the sky is filled with light
With their hands they weave and gather blessings on our garden of light