Michaelmas Festival 2012

28 September 2012

We had a wonderful time celebrating Cardiff Steiner School’s first ‘whole school’ festival – Michaelmas. Throughout the year we celebrate festivals to connect us with the cycles of nature, establish a yearly rhythm for the children, and strengthen our community. Michaelmas is the first festival of our school year.

This ancient festival is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days, and celebrates harvest, human courage, and the triumph of light over darkness. As the days get colder and shorter, we come together to give thanks, celebrate the fruits of summer and make ourselves strong in the face of the oncoming winter. Michaelmas reminds us of the courage and inner strength we need to prepare for the colder, darker months.

The whole term has been leading up to the festival with stories and poems about St. Michael and the dragon in the Classes, and harvest songs and activities in the Kindergarten. In this way there is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself, and in the memories.

Throughout the week the children and teachers were busy preparing for the festival and Harvest feast. The Kindergartens made apple and blackberry cakes, Class 1-2 made table decorations and prepared planters for planting bulbs, and Class 3-4 made some fantastic dragon bread (in French! with Madame Bassett).

On the day of the Festival the children arrived with their harvest gifts and, while the Kindergarten children made leaf crowns and played in the garden, the Classes were very busy inside getting the room ready for the feast.

Tables were brought in and placed in a large square, so that everybody was facing inward towards the food table laden with all the good food that we had prepared. Tables were dressed with red table cloths and set with plates, glasses, cutlery and red napkins. Place cards were made for all the children, suns for the Sun Garden children, roses for the Rose Garden children and swords and shields for the Class children.

The whole school gathered for circle time where the Kindergarten children shared their songs and poems, before settling down for our Harvest feast with our traditional meal blessing “Bless the growing of the grain, Bless the falling of the rain, Bless the flower, fruit and tree, Bless the sun that shines upon me”.

Food was served by Class 3-4 who made the most fantastic waiters with freshly ironed tea towels over one arm. “Did you enjoy the soup?” one waiter asked before informing all that it was cauliflower and butternut squash soup made by Miranda.

All the food had been prepared with hard work, good wholesome fayre and the most important ingredients of all, joy and love, and of course it all tasted absolutely delicious. “This is a real feast!” a 5 year old girl exclaimed with delight.

Then, dressed in their Michaelmas golden cloaks and leaf crowns, the children played outside, before sitting down to see the arrival of a fierce, fire-breathing dragon in the garden (played with great gusto by Ms Hilal and Class 3/4). Luckily Class 1/2 were well prepared with swords and shields, and endowed with strength and light, the St Michaels fought a courageous battle which saw the mighty dragon shrink and finally be subdued for the good of all.

The Classes performed some wonderful poems and everyone was impressed and moved by the confidence and skill with which they recited them. After this the children delivered their harvest gifts to St Anne’s church and were given a bulb in return, which they planted in the planters in the garden. We will see these blossom in our new home in Llandaff North in the spring. The Festival ended with a puppet show – a Michalemas story. “This has been the best Friday ever!” beamed a 9 year old boy from Class 3/4, and so it had.

“When he came home on Friday after the Michaelmas Festival I’m sure he was an inch taller, he was so happy and so pleased with his day. He stood proudly in his Autumn Leaf Crown and Golden Michaelmas Cloak and told me that it was ‘the best day in Kindy ever’. He said that when the children from the Classes joined the Kindergarten children to sing ‘Morning has come’ it ‘felt wonderful Mummy, it echoed through the whole school’. Then his eyes opened wide and he said ‘and later we went into the ‘Great Hall’ and had a feast Mummy, it was real feast!’. Thank you for another wonderful day!” Kindergarten Mum

More photos on our Facebook Page>>

The Meaning of Michaelmas

Michaelmas was celebrated quite widely in Britain, Ireland and beyond in pre-industrial times. It seems to have gradually disappeared as we have become less and less dependent on, and connected to, the earth and cycles of the year. With modern industrial farming and mass food retailing we do not fear the meagreness of winter any more.

Michaelmas can help children experience real gratitude for the food that’s on our tables and give them a soul connection to the earth and cycles of the year. For adults it is an opportunity to reflect on and reconnect with our dependence on the earth’s generosity for our survival.

Winter can also be seen metaphorically as a time of cold and dark, of loneliness, maybe of fear.  As the knight in legend, we might also gather our strength and courage to face the dragon of our fears.

Michaelmas has traditionally been a time of action, of settling debts, or justice, and of new beginnings or taking up a new task. Michael beckons us to find the spirit to come alive through the dying year. The flashing meteor showers, often seen at night at this time, are said to be the sword he wields for us, each falling star made of iron – the iron we need to strengthen the resolution of the heart.

We have seen much evidence of iron and strength and resolution and heart in the last few weeks as parents, teachers and friends have poured their energies and talents into creating our new homein Llandaff North.


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