Honoring and celebrating festivals is an important element of educating a child. Waldorf School of Pittsburgh celebrates and honors an array of multi-cultural traditions through a rich festival life.
In our Waldorf School, our annual celebrations and observances of the seasonal and cultural festivals help to develop children’s relationships to their larger environment. These yearly rhythms are repeated just as we keep to daily classroom routines and rituals, thus creating a safe, secure environment where learning and growing can occur. These annual observances become opportunities for experiencing nature’s seasonal changes. We bring to the children age-appropriate songs, stories, verses, games, and activities for the various turning points of the year.
Year by year, the child’s awareness and relation to the cycles in nature is deepened by these observances. We also hope to bring in this experiential way an understanding of the seasons of life itself.
First Grade Rose Ceremony
The Rose Ceremony marks the beginning of the school year. In common with fellow Waldorf schools across the globe, The Waldorf School of Pittsburgh honors the first grade students on their first day of entering the grade school with the Rose Ceremony. First graders are presented with a single rose by an eighth grade student. The Rose Ceremony is a milestone for both grades. The first graders are about to gain a new sense of self, the eighth graders are on the cusp of entering young adulthood.
The Rose Ceremony marks the beginning of a year-long journey for the first and eighth graders. Throughout the year they will work together, the eighth graders acting as shepherd and guide for the first graders through festivals, celebrations, and teaching moments such as learning how to knit.
This festival, on the first Friday of the school year, symbolizes the entrance of the first graders into the Grades program. Each student’s name is called and she/he receives a rose from a student of the eighth grade. Intended as a welcoming to the Grades, this in-school festival is open to all family members of First and Eighth Grades
This annual Fall festival is celebrated with a pageant, songs, games of courage and strength, and old fashioned activities. We celebrate Michaelmas to find hope and honor the strength of human will, courage and initiative. In the traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the archangel Michael, or Mikail, is a symbolic leader of the force of good over evil and courage over cowardice. The celebration of Michaelmas, which is rooted in harvest festival traditions from the Middle Ages, teaches the importance of overcoming fear and darkness and strengthening resolve for winter.
While we are not as connected to the cycle of nature as we once were, each of us, and each student, must face their own difficulties and dark times in life, both internal and external. Therefore, we celebrate Michaelmas with our students through verse, songs, and dramatizations of the legend of Saint Michael slaying the dragon.
In a play students enact, a destructive dragon is tamed by St. Michael and the people of the town suffering under the dragon’s fiery, uncontrollable wrath. It is a story that parallels our own human challenges and it speaks to children in a deeply symbolic way — feeding their innate need for truth and justice and empowering them to find the courage to take on and defeat their personal dragons.
Michaelmas is for Waldorf School of Pittsburgh families and alumni only.
At the end of October, Early Childhood and Little Friends students participate in a Halloween Journey, visiting the archetypes of the farmer, fisherman, wizard (wise one), baker, etc. While on their outdoor journey around the grounds, children recite verses and songs, and receive a treasure to take home from each stop.
The Lower Grades (1–5) celebrate Halloween by participating in an afternoon of folk dancing and storytelling. Called the Halloween Hoe-Down, this uplifting experience allows the Grades to intermingle and have a healthy social experience while sharing dances and songs learned in individual classes.
The Upper Grades (6–8) celebrate Halloween by having Spirited Hair Day where all students are welcome to style and dye their hair in any way they choose (must be temporary). They also hold an in-school dance in the afternoon periods and may bring costumes without masks.
Martinmas Lantern Walk
It takes an act of courage to step out into the darkness on a November night. Faith of heart is needed to hold all of what life and nature gave us during the warm relaxed summer months in our soul like a small burning flame as we head deeper into the autumn. This is the symbolism of the Lantern Walk- each of our families setting out into the darkness to walk with our little lights while the wind sighs and the leaves rustle underfoot. Then, as the path turns we see that each little light forms part of a river of light that weaves through the night- joining together and helping us along. We find that once we have stepped out into the night we find our community in a different spirit from the rush of everyday events as a mood of reverence, awe, and wonder surrounds us.
Each year the students in Early Childhood through Eighth Grade celebrate Martinmas with a traditional lantern walk. The students make their own lanterns in the classroom, which stand as symbols for their individual light. Typically a walk outside with lit lanterns as the sun goes down sets the scene for preparing ourselves for the approaching darkness of winter.
Thanksgiving — Stone Soup Celebration
During this harvest festival, we call to mind the forces of heaven and earth that provide us with food, clothing, and sustenance, and we have the opportunity to remember and thank all who have supported us. In our school, traditionally, the Early Childhood programs invite the families of their students to a Stone Soup Celebration. The students bring in and chop the vegetables for our soup and bread is baked to share. During the celebration, the story of stone soup is told and the families then enjoy a meal of soup and bread that has been prepared by the students.
This special and solemn celebration of the Advent and winter season is designed to remind us that even in the darkest of winter we can still find light to lead us on our way. In a darkened room, all will enter in silence. A pine bough spiral will grace the floor. Each child will walk the spiral alone, carrying an unlit candle. The child progresses toward the center of the spiral towards a glowing candle. The student then lights her own candle from the center light and walks out of the spiral, placing her candle in the spiral along the way. After each has taken his turn, the path will be glimmering with candles, and the students will leave quietly.
Advent, from the Latin “to come,” is the period including the four Sundays preceding Christmas. A month-long festival, Advent is a time of quiet preparation and waiting. It is signified in classrooms in many ways, one of which being Advent wreaths with four candles, one for each kingdom of nature (minerals, plants, animals, and human beings) as well as each week of Advent.
Even in the darkest of winter we still can find light to lead us on our way, and the Winter Spiral shows us this. This spiral of greens leads to a lit candle which each student walks to in the dark with an unlit candle. The student lights their candle from the center light and walks out of the spiral placing their candle along the way. Usually in early December, families and other community members are invited to walk the spiral.
Saint Nicholas Day
The feast of St. Nicholas takes place near the beginning of December. At school, the children put out their shoes for St. Nicholas overnight and return to find them filled with fruits and nuts. St. Nicholas may visit the classrooms in person to bring a golden walnut and a message for each of the children.
This Jewish festival of lights is celebrated near the time of the winter solstice. Hanukkah represents a rededication to the ideals of religious freedom, commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in Jerusalem in 165 BC. The eight days of Hanukkah represent the eight days during which a holy lamp remained lit, although it held only enough oil for one day. This festival in the season of light celebrates the victory of inner light over outer darkness. In school, many classes celebrate by lighting the Menorah, making latkes, playing with dreidels, dancing the Horah, and singing Hanukkah songs.
Winter Fair is our annual signature event in which our whole community comes together to create an enriching holiday experience that year after year lives in our hearts and memories as a welcoming to the holiday season. Our annual holiday fair is a festival and an important fundraising event that supports our school's operating expenses and also provides an opportunity to share the beauty of our campus with our wider community.
Our whole community comes together to prepare for this event which includes two-hours of service from each parent in our school. The holiday fair includes delicious wholesome food, children’s activities and crafts, and over 60 juried artisans and makers offering an array of beautiful homemade and natural material crafts and toys.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
To recognize the significance of one person’s actions, and to acknowledge the life of Dr. King, all the Grades students participate in an in-school assembly. Some classes share verses or songs, the whole school sings together, and a story is told by one of the teachers.
This day is celebrated as a token of love and fondness for one another. In the Grades, students are encouraged to share homemade valentines with their classmates. Children in the Early Childhood program may work on seasonal handwork project and enjoy a special snack prepared by the parents.
At Easter time we welcome the renewal of spring when the physical world awakens, bringing new life to the Earth. Symbols of life renewing include the egg and the awakening of a caterpillar into a butterfly. These images are reflected in various activities, songs, and stories brought into the classroom.
Passover is the Jewish celebration of miracle and liberation, the story of leaving Egypt as slaves and entering the Promised Land as free people. The Seder is the traditional meal eaten on the first and second nights of Passover. The Seder plate includes six special foods that symbolize Israel’s efforts toward liberation. At school, the Grades may celebrate with a traditional Seder meal; younger children might hear the story of Passover and Israel’s flight from Egypt, and become acquainted with the foods on the Seder plate.
Evening of the Arts
The Evening of the Arts is an event for all Grades children to perform, class by class, for our community. This tradition allows for our curriculum to shine and our students to show off what they’ve learned throughout the year.
Grandparents & Special Friends Day
Grandparents and Special Friends Day is one of the most popular and joyful events of the WSP year. The faculty and administration welcome and share our school with these special guests.
A spring celebration of rejuvenating forces and beauty of nature and life in general. Our May fair festival brings the whole school community together. Families enjoy dancing around the Maypole, singing, playing games, and making flower crowns.
In ancient tradition, May Day celebrates the beginning of summer. The maypole itself represents fertility and the tree of life. For the children as well as adults, May Day is a reminder that warmer days are ahead. During the Waldorf School’s May Fair, children can enjoy the traditional maypole dance accompanied by singing and live music.
6th Grade Rising Ceremony (Knighting Ceremony)
The Rising Ceremony (Knighting Ceremony) is the culmination of a school year's worth of work completed by 6th Grade "squires" to become knighted. Projects include community service, helping at home, writing essays, and living by a knight's code. The evening ceremony is a rite of passage for the students at the end of their Sixth Grade year.
Eighth Grade Rose Ceremony
This is the book end to the First Grade Rose Ceremony held at the start of the school year. At this assembly, each grade performs for the Eighth Graders, the PA presents them with books, and First Graders give each Eighth Grader a rose. First and Eighth Grade parents are welcomed to this ceremony, which is similar to an in-house graduation ceremony.
Eighth Grade Commencement
At the close of the school year, we send off our Eighth Graders in a commencement ceremony. During this program, students may give speeches, sing, play music, and show other skills and talents they have. They are also presented with a certificate of completion, marking the end of their Waldorf School of Pittsburgh career.