20 February 2015

Back in November, that seems a long time ago now, I shared some of the festivals we had learned about and observed in the Autumn.  As the Winter draws to a close and Spring is slowly beckoning us with its bloom it is time to share those we have learned about, celebrated or observed over the Winter.  I shared a list at the end of my post about Autumn Festivals which seemed very long at the time, I didn't think we would have time for them all but we did and added some more!


I was a bit late with my planning of how we would observe/celebrate Advent, only doing my research a few days before it started.  In the end it didn't matter as the research I did will now stand us in good stead for future years.  My hesitation, I am sure, was down to the fact that I was unsure of how Advent should fit into our family.  I read as much as I could, mostly on blogs, about how others observe and celebrate this time of year, finally settling on a lovely festival attributed to Rudolph Steiner although there seems to be some dispute as to whether he did create it or not.  Anyway each week of Advent has a theme, a festival, which we used as the focus of our learning each week.  We created a star path as a visible sign of time passing.  A large star for each of the Sundays and a smaller star for the other days.  We kept these in a small bowl on our seasonal table laying out a new one each morning when we also lit a candle.  The path wove its way from the bowl round the candle to our wee tree.  We read about Advent and learnt a song which we added a verse to each week.

Week One - Festival of Stones

During the week we read stories nine and ten from The Festival of Stones.  We placed rocks and minerals from our own collections on our seasonal table and identified them during the week (or tried to) we also learnt about how they were formed.  We live in a mineral rich part of our country so we look at some geology maps of our county, including what was mined and where.  We visited a local museum which has an excellent exhibition of local rocks and minerals which includes a time line.

Week Two - Festival of Plants

We read stories 11 and 12 from The Festival of Stones.  I decided to focus our learning on trees for the weeks as this would enable us to take out learning outside.   We read a few pages from the Earth section of this beautiful book learning about what the Earth Kingdom has meant to our ancient ancestors.  We read the Norse myth about Yggdrassil.  We learnt about the Holly Tree, writing up facts about the tree to share at Forest School.  We went for a walk in a local wood to learn to identify trees in Winter.  We added plant finds to our seasonal table, replacing the rocks.

Week Three - Festival of Animals

We read stories 13 - 16 from The Festival of Stones during the week.  We changed our seasonal table replacing the plant finds with animals (not real ones!) and some of the things we get from animals such as wool, silk and honey.  We leant about animals that hibernate and why they do it.  We made bird food which we hung out for the birds and went birdwatching at a local nature reserve.

Week Four - Festival of Humankind

Over the course of the week we read stories 16 - 28 from The Festival of Stones.  The rest of the week was slightly different to previous weeks as we were away from home.  Our festival was about being with family, sharing food together and enjoying their company.  In the years that we spend Christmas at home I will think about how to embrace this.

During the four week of Advent we also learnt about and observed some other festivals:

St Nicholas Day - 06 December

St Nicholas was a gift giver and is celebrated in many forms around the world so we discovered when  we read about who and how this day is celebrated.  We found a story to share and made some spicy biscuits which we shared with friends.

St Lucia Day - 13 December 

St Lucia is the patron saint of Light.  This Swedish festival which I remember celebrating as a child.  We read about how Children celebrate this day, a story behind the celebrations and made some Lussekatt using the recipe from this book.

Hanukah - 18 December

This is a Jewish Festival of Lights that is celebrated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kisler.  We read a story about why this is an important time for Jewish people.  We learnt a simple song and made potato latkes.

Winter Solstice - 21 December 

The shortest day of the year, a day worthy of celebrating in my book as the days get longer thereafter!  For the past few years we have celebrated this at a friends house but she was not well enough to host this year we missed the lovely party.  We put up our Christmas decorations on this day, we watched the sun rise and set and we burnt our worries on a fire we had in the garden.


Mawlid an Nabi - 03 January

The birth day of the Prophet Muhammad which is an important day for Muslims.  We read and found about the Prophet and Islam, which was new religion to the children.  We read some lovely stories which promoted some interesting discussion.  We also learnt a traditional prayer, sung to the Prophet on this day.

Twelfth Night - 06 January  

The twelfth night after Christmas Day, we talked about the Story of the Three Kings and read the Baboushka story and a delightful short story in this book.  I made a Gallette de Rois, a delicious pie which is traditionally made in many countries on this day.  My recipe was a Nigella Lawson one from   this book.

Plough Monday - 12 January

This is an old tradition which I discovered when I was researching the next festival.  In many ways the two traditions are interlinked and I can't help thinking that they are really one and the same but took place in different parts of the country depending on the nature of the agriculture.  On Plough Monday farm labourers would tour their local villages raising money and work, often in disguise as they could be mischievous in their endeavours.  If you would like to know more you can read about it here and here.

Wassailing - 17 January

There are, it seems, two versions of wassailing.  One that involves singing to raise money when work was scarce and has evolved into our tradition of carol singing, this took place prior to Christmas.  The other involved the blessing of the apple trees to ensure a good harvest.  We had a small ceremony to bless the apple trees in the the small wood were we meet for Forest School.  We sang a song, blessed the tree and shared some hot apple punch together.

Imbolc - 01 February

Our Imbolc celebrations were a little subdued this year as we were all feeling rather sick.  I made a seed cake using the recipe here (scroll down it is at the bottom of the page) which was lovely.  We also made some Brigid crosses using reeds, not our usual jolly celebration.

Candlemas - 02 February

A day for blessing candles, for noticing that candles are needed less as the days are lengthening.  We read a story about the slow return of the warmth and light.  I would like to make candles in future years but I need to make sure I order the bits in time.......

Valentines Day - 14 February

I have never looked into the history of day and was unsurpassed to learn that there is much conflicting information as to its origins.  I made a few lavender hearts which I gave to friends along with sachets of Love tea.  I have year to divide fi this is a festival/tradition for our family, it has always been one that has long lost its true meaning and seems to have been taken over by commercialism.

Shrove Tuesday - 17 February

This is another festival that has lost its meaning to many, taken over and renamed, in the UK anyway, as Pancake Day.  However in discussing its origins it sparked off an interesting discussion about the food we eat..........we did make and enjoy eating pancakes!  Next year I am tempted to make these as suggested by Camilla.

Chinese New Year - 19 February

A very important time of year for Chinese people as we discovered when we read about this festival.  The festivities last for two weeks ending with a Lantern Festival.  It is a time for family and sharing of food.  We read a fun story about how the animals came to each be given a year, 2015 is the year of the sheep.  We had a stir fry for tea and made some almond biscuits which are traditionally made at New Year.

I know that Lent started this week but it has been too busy to fit it in.  We are going to learn about this next week, when there are no other festivals, this will complete our Winter Festivals.

I acquired some wonderful books to help us celebrate these festivals, some this year and others in previous years:

The Winter Book by Rotraut Susanne Berner (I didn't pay that much for my copy!)
While the Bear Sleeps by Caitlin Matthews
The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson


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

St David's Day - 01 March
Hina Maturi - 03 March
Purim - 04 March
Chinese Lantern Festival - 05 March
Holi/Hola Mahalla - 06 March
Mothering Sunday - 15 March
Spring Equinox - 20 March (along with an solar eclipse)
Palm Sunday - 22 March
April Fools Day - 01 April
Easter Sunday - 05 April
Passover - 06 April
Songkran Baisaki - 13 April
St George's Day - 23 April
Beltain - 01 May
Wesak - 04 May
St Michael's Day - 08 May
Rogation Sunday - 10 May
Whitsun - 24 May
Oak Apple Day - 29 May

As always seems like rather a lot, we will fit what we can or what takes our interest.........


  1. I loved your advent celebrations this year (I might poach it for next year for my three) and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing about some of these other ones as we move through the year. The Christian ones I know, but what's Wesak??

  2. Goodness me! Fascinating, what an interesting winter you have all had learning about these festivals. Festival of Stones sounds interesting, I'd like to learn more about that, I love stones X

  3. thanks so much for sharing all this. i was hoping you would share pre-festival so was glad to then read of upcoming ones lol
    we don't do many festivals, just a few that are special to us. but we do like learning about other cultures too.


  4. What beautifully busy and festive seasons you have. I loved learning about all of them. We actually observe Chinese New year here because of our Tao cultivation. Our House of the Saint does vigil with the lamps for anyone who wants to stop by for 3 days and 3 nights. We are holding the fort Saturday with the kids : Wrapping incense, pouring oil into the lamps, reflecting, reading passages from the Sutras and from many of our Buddhist for children book collection. It will be a wonderful moment of mindfulness for our children since this is the first year they will be participating. We also gathered last Sunday to cleanse the holy house and they helped get everything ready. Such a wonderful way to get kids interested in everything around them.

    I applaud you for doing so much! Our next ones will be the Chinese Lantern Festival and St-Patrick's Day. I've notice that last one is not on your list. Any reason?

    1. I had forgotten about St Patrick's Day, thank you for the reminder!

  5. What a wonderful festival reference you have made - we enjoyed our pancakes (well, waffles actually) on tuesday as well! Wishing you a lovely weekend. xo

  6. I think we need to celebrate more we're missing out on all the fun. My daughter is born on Lucia- and naturally her middle name is...Lucia.
    Thank you for sharing all this, I am going to print this out and see what might be meaningful to us.

  7. You did a great job fitting them all in! Hope you have just as much fun planning your Spring festivals x

  8. It is such a good (and fun sounding) idea to celebrate all these festivals. Thank you for sharing all the links, such a wealth of information. I really should make a bit more effort outside of the 'well known' ones.


Hello......would love to hear from you :)