The middle of winter is a time when the world around us holds its breath, having inhaled deeply since the start of the cold season.

The plants have all retreated underground and have waited in preparation for this mid point in the season. Human beings, too, have felt the air around them get cooler, crisper and sharper.

While much of humanity and nature retreats inside to warmer environments in winter, the season is one that brings about positive change. In winter, the mind is clearer and more open to learning and retention, and the spirit is receptive to change for good and standing up for what is right.

How winter is a catalyst for change

Many change-making events occurred in winter. One of which is the Soweto Riots which catalysed a turning point in the struggle against apartheid.

It is in this context that Waldorf Schools in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate one of their most anticipated events on their calendar: the St John’s Festival.

It echoes John the Baptist’s call to seek the light, and couldn’t be more apt in the context of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere: the switch from shorter days and longer nights to longer days and shorter nights.

Celebrating St John’s at a Waldorf School

st john

The event itself, as celebrated by The Waldorf School at Rosemary Hill, sees our children emerge from the darkness – their lit-up, handmade lanterns in hand – and make their way to the gathered crowd of parents and friends.

As the children walk in silence, and the gathered family members wait in silence, a sense of calm and reflection is felt. It is a moment of clarity and observation.

As the children place their lanterns around the unlit stack of firewood, light slowly fills the darkness around the gathering.

The silence and reflection is broken by the harmonic singing of the children and the darkness is chased away as the bonfire is finally lit.

It is now a time to celebrate the coming summer and the prosperity and abundance that awaits us as well as nature.

Celebrating St John’s in the context of Covid-19


The St John’s Festival of 2020 is different from those in previous years; this year’s celebration takes place in the context of a national (and in many ways an international) lockdown in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

The 2020 festival will instead be celebrated in the homes and outside spaces of Waldorf families, and not on Rosemary Hill Farm on which our school calls home.

As the world comes to terms with the effects of Covid-19 and the many lockdowns it has left in its wake, this year’s St John’s Festival is probably the most appropriate of many in previous years. It might just be the event someone in our Waldorf family needs to calm their mind, body and spirit from all the noise and uncertainty, and to use the opportunity to get clarity and focus for the summer that lies ahead.

st john

Why not bring the light into your own home this mid-winter by creating your very own Waldorf-inspired lantern?

Click below to download your 7-step how-to guide, prepared by our Kindergarten Coordinator, Yolande van Straaten