21 November 2014


At this time of year I buy myself a new diary.  I am a paper diary girl, I have tried using electronic diaries but they don't work for me. It is not about being able to touch the diary it is about how it is laid out and what you can see at a glance.  At the beginning of this year I researched the dates of many festivals and celebrations writing them into my diary.  I was not organised enough, for much of the year, to observe or celebrate any of them until the Autumn and a new rhythm.  Autumn in many ways was a good time to start this, there are many festivals in the autumn and they are have sent us all on an interesting journey one which I hope we will continue for a good while.

Autumn Equinox - 23 September

We celebrated this at home on our own and with our friends at Forest School the following day.  The children already know a little about the tilting of the world in relation to the sun but we talked about what happens on the Equinox, that the days and nights are the same length in the northern and southern hemispheres.

During our music session we came up with a rhythm to clap and drum.  At this equinox the dragon, an ancient energy symbol representing Earth energy, dynamism, Fire, will and courage was invoked to carry the Fire energy in to the inner realms, to activate the Fire within.  The dragon goes underground for the Winter and our rhythm was a dance to send the dragon to sleep.  We wrote out our achievements for the year and any hopes and dreams for the coming year.  At Forest School we planted tree seeds in pots and shared food together round the fire.

Rosh Hashanah - 25 September

This is the Jewish Festival of New Year.  This was a new festival and new religion for the children.  I found two books in our local library one about Judaism and one that had a page on this festival.  We read the books together.  At lunchtime I made some apples and honey traditionally eaten for a sweet New Year.  We also watched a short video.

Michaelmas - 29 September

This is the feast of St Michael.  We celebrated this with friends for the first time last year.  We reminded ourselves of what this festival is about and why it is celebrated.  Having just celebrate the Equinox we talked about the similarities.  The symbolism of the Dragon in both festivals,  St Michael subduing the dragon.  We read a Michaelmas story, The Most Beautiful Dragon in the Whole World (under the third heading, eight from the bottom) and a poem.  We joined our singing group to continue our celebrations, singing songs, making dragon bread and sharing a meal together.

Dussehra - 3 October

This is a Hindu festival which is celebrated for nine days, culminating with Dussehra on the tenth day.  It focuses on the harvest, the end of the monsoon and the triumph of good over evil.  For us is was an introduction to another religion.  We read about Hinduism and about how this festival is celebrated.  We watched a short video.

Sukkot 8 - 15 October

This is the Jewish Harvest Festival, when the homes ancestors make in the desert during the flight to the promised land are remembered.  Shelters are built, the Sukkot, and decorated and all meals are eaten there for the seven days of the festival.  We read about this festival and watched this video.

Diwali - 23 October

This is a festival celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs, some celebrate it as a five day festival.  It is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the victory of light over darkness.  We lit candles and shared food, we read about the festival and a story that goes with it.  We made Besan Ladoo a sweet treat that is often eaten at Hindu festivals.

Samhein - 31 October

We were away for this festival so we had a small celebration with Forest School when we returned.  We shared food around the fire, burnt our worries, made a mandala with leaves, berries and branches in which we placed our hopes for the new year.  At home we remembered our loved ones and the those that are no longer with us.  The children and I had a long talk about their Grandfather who passed away last year, we talked about our happy memories of spending time with him.

Bonfire Night - 5 November

We always attend a local bonfire and firework display, but my children knew nothing about the history of why we light bonfires and fireworks.  We read several books about Guy Fawkes and the history behind this day.

Guru Nanak - 6 November

This is a Sikh Festival to celebrate the birth of the founder of the Sikh religion.  I introduced the Sikh religion to them, we watched a short video and we talked about our own celebrations at Christmas.

Martinmas - 11 November

This is another festival that we has previously celebrated with friends.  We reminded ourselves of what this festival is about and why it is celebrated.  We learnt some simple lantern songs in the morning as part of our music at home and read a story St Martin's Light.  Later on we joined our singing group to continue our celebrations, singing more songs around a fire, taking our lanterns for a walk and sharing food together.

Kathina - 13 November

This is a buddhist festival.  It marks the end of the rainy season and period of retreat for monks.  The monks are given an offering of material to make into robes.  We talked about the monsoon and the weather in Asia compared to that which we have here at this time of year.  We read about the festival itself and what it means to buddhists.

All of these have been a gentle introduction to many topics, to religion, to festivals, to cultures, to countries.  As we find more about each of these I hope that as the years go by we can develop our own knowledge and build these into our rhythm to find what fits and works for us.  We spend as little as half and hour to most of the day devoted to learning depending on what else we were doing and how interested we all were to learn more.  It is by no means and exhaustive list.  We will be finding out about St Andrew for the end of this month to complete our list of Autumn Festivals.

We have a small collection of books that we use these include:

What I Believe by Alan Brown
A Calendar Of Festivals by Cherry Gilchrist
Children Just Like ME: Celebrations by Anabel Kindersley
Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred
All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling
Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large
Festivals Together by Sue Fitzjohn, Minda Weston and Judy Large

The library is our greatest resource.  We have used many books for each of these festivals.


As Winter approaches we will be considering the following festivals that take place in that season:

Advent - Starts 30 November
St Nicholas Day - 6 December
Hanukkah - Starts 16 December
Winter Solstice - 21 December
Malid al Nabi - 3 January
Twelfth Night - 5 January
Wassailing - 17 January
Candlemas - 2 February
Valentines - 14 February
Imbolc - 16 February
Shrove Tuesday - 17 February
Lent - Starts 18 February
Chinese New Year - 19 February

Rather a lot and we may leave some this season and observe them next time round......


  1. I love watching the rhythm of the year through the feast days - I'm trying to mark a few more of the more minor Christian ones this year because they seem to get so easily forgotten!

  2. What I love, seeing it written down like this, is noting the similarities in all of the different festivals. The triumph of light over darkness, the celebration of the harvest, the sharing of food. All over the world it seems there are more similarities than differences between us all.

    It's quite a packed calendar you have planned - I'm not surprised you need to write them all down. We mostly focus on the Irish Celtic earth festivals. When my girls are a little older we might look at how others celebrate.

    Also, can I just say how much I LOVE those little gnomes with their lanterns! They are adorable.

    1. Thank you! The wee people were made using the book Making Peg Dolls by Margaret Bloom.

  3. Thanks for sharing all that - so interesting. I hadn't heard of quite a few of those festivals. I like the way you cover all different religions. There is some debate here at the moment about re-introducing religious education to schools but presented much like you seem to do in your homeschooling, rather than in the more traditional sense. I am definitely for this approach as I'm sure it will help foster understanding of and between different religions.

    1. I remember, vaguely, finding out about some of these festivals and celebrations at primary school. I can't remember how they were presented to us and whether we actually celebrated them too but they familiar to me. I don't think there has to be a preachiness or a converting the masses when talking about religious education, I had an excellent teacher for one year of RE at secondary school we spent a few weeks investigating a religion each and had a discussion /debate about them all at the end of term. I am sure such learning can and could help to foster a greater understanding between us all.

  4. I always find it fascinating to find the parallels, people and places are different but the things that matter to them ... the passing seasons, harvest, light, shelter, these remain the same.

    1. They do, it is only this year that we have all realised how similar they all are.

  5. What a great way to teach kids about different faith traditions. And a nice way to pass the darker days of winter, too. It seems like there would always be something to look forward to! We haven't really started any traditions with our little family yet, but it's something I'm eager to do as the boys get a bit older.

    1. There is always something to look forward to! We started to get disappointed when there was a week with nothing to celebrate/find out about!

  6. Thanks for sharing. We normally celebrate Michaelmas and Martinmas. St Nicholas Day is also a firm favourite in our house!

  7. What a great list of celebrations and I appreciate you sharing how you have observed and learned about them. Love your little people - are those lanterns? xo

    1. They are wee lanterns, made with four small pieces of felt sewn together. There is a thin piece of wire attached to the top it the lantern which is in a pseudo pocket on the peg people. They were great fun to make!

  8. So many festivals. It would be hard to keep up with them all but it's nice to keep up with as many as we can.

  9. Oh my goodness. What a lot of celebrations there are! I so appreciate your observations + sharing. I do celebrate Winter Solstice (I think it might be my favorite celebration, it reminds me that the light is indeed returning, even though it does not seem to be so at all); I want to look up some of the other December holidays now.


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