What is St John’s?
Waldorf schools around the world have many things in common, most notably our celebration of seasonal festivals. They help instil consciousness of the rhythms of nature, the passing of time, celebrating life and community and become highlights in the memory of any Waldorf child.
In winter, and the end of the second school term, we traditionally celebrate St John’s which astronomically marks the winter solstice – the longest night and the beginning of lengthening days and shortening nights. Named for John the Baptist (the prophet Yahya in the Quran), Anglican, Lutheran and Catholic liturgical calendars alike placed St John’s birth date as 24 June, six months before Christmas. A Jewish travelling evangelist in the early first century AD, it is generally accepted that he baptised Jesus. Revered as a major religious figure in Christianity, the Baha’I Faith, Islam, amongst others, he called upon mankind to cultivate inner light and warmth.
“The original idea of any sacred festival is to make the human being look upward from his dependence on earthly things to those things that transcend the Earth.” – Rudolf Steiner
Pomp and pageantry
In the weeks leading up to the winter festival, each child goes on their own inner journey whilst carefully crafting their beautiful lanterns. They’ll hear stories of good and evil, light and darkness, about demands made on the human spirit but also the power of grace and the blessing of commitment and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
Each festival has its own identity and rituals and even the older children still get excited during the build-up to a festival. The thrill of the expectation, the camaraderie in preparation, the joy of the celebration and the lasting memories afterwards is what make these moments stand out in later years.
All the preparations culminated in a huge celebration last Friday evening: triumph of the fire of our spirits and hearts, over the cold darkness. Our children blazed a trail into the quiet dark and shone their lights into the night, symbolically dispelling the darkness.
“St John, St John, the messenger of light, who kindled the fire in the dark winter’s night.”
The music recital that followed the lantern walk, was a spark of light that set the bonfire ablaze at the height of the class 9’s drumming performance.
Thank you to everyone who attended our St John’s festival. Despite the wet, cold weather, loadshedding, and the Friday afternoon traffic we had a really good turnout. If you happened to miss the winter festival this year, be sure to diarise it for 2023 – you did miss out.
Earlier today, all our learners assembled in the school hall where they once again lit their lanterns, sang songs and listened to a special story. Continuing the merriment, they then went outside and gathered fireside to bake stick bread. When the fire started dying down, they all took turns jumping over the fire with encouraging cheers of support from their teachers and friends.
Jumping over the fire, they cast off that which they wanted to let go of; that which does not serve them anymore. The cleansing properties of the flames make us see the essence of things and the true path we must take.
St John’s flame, burning warm in each of our hearts, gives us the courage and joy to follow our own path.
We wish you and your family a blessed and peaceful holiday and look forward to seeing everyone back at school soon!