by Ami Evergreen | Pedagogical Administrator, Nursery-Grade 8
For the bountiful gifts the earth bestows upon us, for the gold hues that adorn the land, for the richness of each sunrise and each day’s glory in our valley–our attention to these details can be the heartseed of a family Thanksgiving festival, and sustained through the four weeks of Advent. The growing year has come full circle as the harvest comes in. Grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts fill the larders, imbuing us with a sense of completion and gratitude for the miracle of nature–if we take the time to turn our inner gaze towards these gifts.
The harvest season is universal; the harvest festivals are among the most ancient known to mankind. The Egyptians and Chinese gave thanks for well-filled storehouses. The Hindus held a festival for Gauri, the goddess of the harvest, where girls wore flowers in their hair. The ancient Greeks honored Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, while the Romans celebrated the festival of Ceralia, dedicated to Ceres, goddess of vegetation. The Hebrews celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles, or Sukkoth. Native Americans celebrate the harvest by giving thanks to the spirits of the woods for wild game, of the lakes for fish, and of the fields for berries and nuts. At the traditional Green Corn ceremony, the fires of the old year were put out and new ones kindled. Everywhere on Earth the harvest kindles gratitude. During the Middle Ages, England and Europe kept the tradition of the harvest festival known as “Harvest Home.” The villagers went out to the field and decorated the last load of grain with ribbon and flowers. The people danced around it singing songs of thanks.
In that same spirit, a sixth grade student composed this poem:
In between Fall’s final harvest, and Winter’s first bite
comes a golden hour,
a time to mull things over
and feel thankful for all the good fortune that drifted our way
while we were too busy to notice.
My family, home, warmth, food, my friends, teacher, school, church,
animals, transportation, kindness–
my whole life!
To honor the kingdoms that give of their substance to support us humans in our endeavors, we offer one week to each in December. Minerals, plants, and animals fortify our lives with the yield of their lives. Each Monday in December on the Los Altos campus, the children will assemble to hear a story and sing, sharing in giving extra attention to each kingdom. On the fourth week–the week of humankind–we must ask: what is our yield, or the gift we as humans bring forth from our lives?
Below are the classic verses sung in Waldorf schools around the world:
The first light of Advent is the light of stones,
stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
roots, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit by whom we live and grow.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,
animals of farm, field, forest, air, and sea.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind,
the light of love, the light of thought, to give and understand.