the spiral of light at Meadow Steiner School in Somerset, UK
Maybe you don't know the word, or you have hazy memories of wreaths or logs stuck with candles.
Traditionally, Advent is a liturgical season comprised of the 4 Sundays immediately preceding Christmas, including Christmas Eve, should it fall on a Sunday. For me, Advent is the deepest part of the year, the time when I'm ready to get quieter, to turn inward and notice how much work it can take to sparkle and glow when everything in nature is urging me to hibernate. For these weeks leading up to the shortest days in the Northern hemisphere, I consciously create daily rituals of flame and quiet.
All around me, things are bustling. There are presents to buy, decorations to put up, trees to select. There are parties and concerts and events. My schedule is full. Calendars must be consulted for every possible conflict before any new commitments can be added. I'm breathless, worried if I can do enough, buy enough, be enough.
Into this hurried time falls a drop of peace.
In Waldorf schools, there's a tradition of a special festival of quiet and light during this season. The Light Garden or Advent Garden or Winter Spiral is at once a meditation and an activity. A candle is lit at the center of a spiral of evergreen boughs. One by one, the children follow the spiral path to the center, each carrying a candle in an apple. After lighting their candle, each child finds a spot along the path on which to set their apple, so that it will illumine the pathway for others. Once all the children have had a chance to light their candles, we pause for a moment to enjoy the loveliness of the lit spiral, and then the teachers lead them back to their classrooms or they leave with their parents.
Each of us must find a way to the light -- the light of thought, of connection, of kindness and of justice. Each of us has the opportunity to light the way for those who come after us. This is the lesson of the Light Garden. It's one I need to learn, over and over again, every winter.
As you make your own way into the heart of winter, however this season lives in you, my wish is that you may find a light lit on your path to help you along, and that you may in turn share that with others. I'll have another story for you this weekend, and I hope it might be a little mirror, reflecting a little sunlight into the cold.