Festivals played an important role in the pedagogy of Waldorf education. By definition, a festival is a joyous celebration of human life and the life of the earth where we lived in. These festivals have emerged from our deep connections with the spiritual realm and our search for the meaning of our human existence. In the Waldorf traditions, festivals are meant to reflect the spiritual reality of what is happening to the earth throughout the year. In the celebration of various festivals everyone is involved. Sharing of stories over food is one of the hallmarks of a festival. In addition to this, games and various activities that connect to the essence of the festival are also participated by all who are present in the festival. The experience of joy and reverence of the beauty of nature is what allows a festival at a particular time of the year to unite a whole community.
One of the festivals in which Rudolf Steiner considered as important and needed to be celebrated is Michaelmas. For him, Michaelmas is second most important festival after Easter. Michaelmas is a feast day celebrating the Archangels. Waldorf schools celebrate it as the “Festival of Strong Will” or “Festival of Courage”.
As a background, in Christian angelology, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honored for defeating Satan in the war in heaven. He is one of the principal angelic warriors, seen as a protector against the dark of night, and the administrator of cosmic intelligence. Traditionally, Michael is often portrayed as the angel warrior, spanning his powerful steed carrying a sword of light. The Feast of Archangel Michael is celebrated every September 29. It is around this time that the earth traverses and the northern hemisphere begins to tilt away from the sun. It is the beginning of autumn season – the season of change in a relation of light and darkness in the world around us. In the particular season we need courage in order to face the gloominess it brings. That is why Michael, the archangel who inspires courage, is associated with this festival time.
In the Philippine setting, the end of September marks the beginning of Habagat or the Southwest Monsoon. It is around this time that rain and thunderstorm are common. It is a time for us to get strong courage to get out from bed in the morning and face the gloomy and often wet day. We can employ the spirit of courage in which the feast of Michael brings.
The image of Archangel Michael with the dragon represents the strong will and courage we need in order to face the challenges and obstacles that may come in our way.
Michaelmas in Tuburan:
As a Steiner/Waldorf School, Tuburan celebrated Michaelmas last September 29, 2017. Great planning was made for the said celebration. Everyone was invited to join in some activities and help in making the experience of the celebration meaningful to the children. It was meant to give surprise to the children especially to the kindergartens.
The celebration started with the study and discussions on Michaelmas to the parents and guardians in school. After the edifying and informative time with the teachers of Tuburan, the Kinder parents and guardians baked dragon bread. The custom of baking a special bread or cake is an integral part of Michaelmas. The bread is called Michaelmas Bannock. Normally, it is done on the eve of the Feast day of St. Michael. The parents and guardians then joined the Kinder children for lunch and shared the bread. Everyone ate it with delight and enthusiasm.
Simultaneously, the grade school children were out into the obstacle course which the teachers and some parents tenuously set up. Full of excitement and energy, the children surpassed (or tried to surpass) the obstacles that lay in front of them. Each child showed great courage as they faced the “dragon” at some point of the obstacle course. With determination, each child recited the following Michaelic verse before taming the dragon with a sword:
“Brave and true, I will be
Each good deed sets me free!
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right!
I will conquer the wrong!”
While watching the children playing, the parents/guardians were made to reflect on what are the obstacles that they have in life at the moment. Some shared that the greatest obstacle that they are encountering now (apart from money) is the rhythm of their children when they are not in school. Some are having difficulties to live up and follow the values and rhythm in which the school is trying to inculcate to the children. Indeed, this is the common challenge that all parents encountering at the moment. This is the dragon that we need to tame or overcome.
As a whole, the celebration was a great success, and its learning and values will remain not only in all the children of Tuburan but most specially to all the parents and guardians who partake the Feast of Michael.
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