Seasonal festivals and celebrations serve as milestones in the passing year while building and strengthening the community. In addition to the community-wide festivals listed here, teachers celebrate other festivals in the classroom, including those connected to the cultures being studied or the religious traditions of the students in the class.
September With the autumn equinox, the relationship of light and darkness changes in the world around us. On September 29, the autumn festival traditionally known as Michaelmas (sometimes referred to as the “festival of the will”) celebrates this special time. Children, families, and community members gather outside on our school’s farmland, offering food and decorations for the harvest table. Children share in picking apples and digging for potatoes, eating home-baked “dragon bread” and other harvest treats, singing songs, planting bulbs for the spring, and participating in cooperative games—“the games of courage.”
October Every Fall, IWS celebrates with an annual Saturday community event that offers craft making for children, live music, holiday gifts, games, and home-baked food. We begin preparations in the summer, making crafts to sell, decorations, and more. All of Ithaca comes out to join the fun!
Dia De Los Muertos
November The IWS curriculum includes Spanish instruction twice a week for all children beginning in the first grade. We celebrate this language and its culture in our Día de los Muertos Festival, traditionally a Mexican holiday on November, 1st. Children learn to make sugar skulls, favorite foods of the departed, and construct a traditional altar in the foyer of the school to honor their relatives.
November Lantern Walks are celebrated by children throughout Europe and in Waldorf Schools worldwide. November 11 is Martinmas, a very old European festival of Christian origin. St. Martin of Tours (CE 316–397) is said to have met a poor beggar freezing in the cold. Drawing his sword, Martin cut his warm cloak in half so they could each share in its warmth. Many cultures and religions at this time of year celebrate similar themes of caring for others and carrying the light into the darkness.
December At this time of year, we celebrate the anticipation we feel as we move from the fall and early winter season, when nature withers and dies, to the turning point—when light begins to increase. The Winter Spiral Festival features a quiet, evening walk through a “winter garden” constructed of pine boughs laid out on the floor in a large spiral pattern and decorated with hidden handmade objects and treasures from the natural world. Both children and adults experience a feeling of reverence, an appreciation for the season, and deep reflection as they walk, candle in hand, in through the winter garden’s spiral and then out again. The evening culminates in the quiet singing of holiday songs accompanied by live harp and stringed instruments.
Tet: Lunar New Year
January Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. Tet is generally celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year, Many customs are practiced during Tet, such as visiting a person's house on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), ancestor worship, wishing New Year's greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people, and opening a shop.
May We celebrate the spring season with a lively community Mayfaire Celebration filled with song and dance. Our traditional maypole is decorated with brightly colored ribbons and flowers. Families and friends gather for a picnic lunch and flower crown making, followed by maypole dancing and singing, live music performances, games, and delicious, homemade treats. This is often our largest festival of the year, as many friends, neighbors, alumni, and newcomers join our school community to enjoy the outside activities and celebration (after a long Ithaca winter!)