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Advent Spiral at Waldorf

In the winter, most Waldorf schools celebrate something called "Advent Spiral." It is also called "Winter Garden" or "Advent Garden" Advent Spiral is a simple event that resembles a mystical or religious ritual. There's a great description of a Waldorf Advent Spiral by Pam Fenner on the Waldorf Education list. Pam is a Waldorf teacher, and a great resource. There are several other descriptions or advent spirals including a German Advent Spiral, another from Camelia Waldorf School in Sacramento, and even one by a Unitarian Universalist!

For most Waldorf parents, Advent Spiral is a very special event. There seems to be a small minority of parents who don't like Advent Spiral. However, at some schools Advent Spiral is optional, so you may be able to opt-out if they so desire. You would have to ask your particular school whether Advent Spiral is

There's also a great thread on other Waldorf Christmas festivals that you might be interested in. Look for the light bulb icon () to forward through each message.

Where did the Advent Spiral come from?

I don't know the exact answer to this question. One poster on the Waldorf Education list suggests that such a practice originated in the 4th century.

The Meaning of Advent Spiral

The meaning of Advent Spiral is not readily accessible to the casual observer. While you may have attended many Judeo-Christian winter festivals, or perhaps even some "non-western" ones, chances are you have not encountered the Advent Spiral.

Personally, I made a strong connection between the Advent Spiral, and things I read about in Steiner's lecture on the Christmas festival. However, when I shared these connections, they were vehemently denied, to the extent that it was suggested that such a lecture never even existed!

Incidentally, as far as I can tell, Waldorf itself makes no overt claims about the symbology of the Advent Spiral. However, in his lecture "Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival," Rudolf Steiner discusses the significance of several symbols which correspond to symbols we see in the Waldorf Advent Spiral.

With regards to the spiral form, Steiner links spirals to the astrological sign of Cancer. The symbol of Cancer is two intertwining spirals, which "point to the dawn of a new age." In this case, the first spiral (the journey inward) represents the "end of the Atlantean culture." The second spiral (the journey out) represents the "rise of the new Aryan culture."

Similarities between Steiner's Lecture "The Birth of Light," and Waldorf Advent Spiral
Steiner says: At Waldorf Advent Spiral we see:
"When Christmas arrives, a turning point is reached. The light increases, days grow longer and nature reawakens. So the birth of the light at Christmas time has been celebrated since the times when the light became the symbol of revelation in the world and man." ... Read full context ...a candle in the center of the spiral, and the light increasing as the flame of each child's candle is lit.
"One spiral of the sign of Cancer indicates the end of the Atlantean culture; the other, the beginning of the Aryan culture. Our ancestors thus perceived in the heavens the outward sign for the rise of the new Aryan culture." ... Read full context ...the outward form of a spiral laid out in pine trimmings on the floor
"Whenever an important event occurs in the world, whenever one stage of evolution is superseded by another thereby bringing something new into the world, two such spiral movements intertwine. One spiral of the sign of Cancer indicates the end of the Atlantean culture; the other, the beginning of the Aryan culture." Read full context ...children walking a double spiral: they walk the spiral in, and they walk the spiral out

There is greater correspondence between symbols in the Waldorf Advent Spiral, and symbols described in Steiner's Christmas lecture, than there is anywhere else. Are there other Christmas myths or traditions that more closely correspond to the symbols of the Waldorf Advent Spiral, other than the ones in Steiner's article? None that can be found found.

Read the lecture for yourself. Research Christmas, Advent, and the spiral form. You can research advent spiral, and the spiral iteself at Google: "Advent Spiral", spiral site:elib.com

Questions for Parent's Night or School Tour

Waldorf Advent Spiral

  1. What happens at Advent Spiral? How long does it last?
  2. What is the meaning of Advent Spiral? Where did it come from?
  3. Is Advent Spiral a traditional Christmas celebration? What groups have practiced it, and when?
  4. Is Advent Spiral unique to Waldorf and Anthroposophy? Who else performs this ritual?
  5. What myth inspired the Advent spiral? Are there any myths about Christmas and Advent that incorporate light and the spiral form?
  6. Was the spiral form important to Steiner? What did it mean to him?
  7. How does Steiner's myth of the end of the Atlantean era, and the dawn of the Aryan epic inform the Waldorf Advent Spiral? How is this myth relevant to Christmas? Is the spiral symbol at Waldorf Advent Spiral different than the spiral symbol in Steiner's Christmas lecture?
  8. Is Advent Spiral mandatory? Why? Is it OK we choose not to have our child participate in this ritual?

You can print out the Master Checklist for parents, and bring it with you to school.

Discuss your own interepretation of Advent Spiral at the OpenWaldorf forums!

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