September 29th of each year marks Michaelmas. In Waldorf education, this day is celebrated with stories of the archangel Micha-el defeating a dragon. The symbolism – of defeating one’s own dragons, of spiritual strength – underlie the richness of the story, the excitement of the battle, the vivid colors of the scene. As it falls close to the autumnal equinox, it is also the day which welcomes fall in the Northern Hemisphere and has us celebrate the time of the harvest and begin to turn inward with the cooler weather, readying ourselves for the cold, dark days of winter. Children often are given apples on this day to commemorate the season.
This year, we kicked off our Michaelmas celebrations with a potluck with our homeschool co-op at a nearby farm and a short play of “The Kite” (adapted from the story found in Festivals, Family and Food) put on by the kids in the co-op. The story describes the journey of a kite floating through the heavens, lost by a little boy who waits for it on earth below. The angel Micha-el throws a shooting star at the kite and sends it back to earth, changed but stronger than before. This happens each year, until the boy is grown; the kite then becomes a sword and the boy a knight in service of the angel.
As the co-op largely consists of young children, the co-op director narrated the story while the kids acted out the parts. Immediately upon hearing the story Aria wanted to be Micha-el and quickly secured the part. Ani, too, wanted to be in the play and originally chose a larger role, but had a bit of stage fright; eventually she chose to be one of several stars, a perfect role for her at this stage.
The night of the play was dark and rainy, so the kids put on the play on the porch of the log cabin while the audience huddled under a canopy and umbrellas – a perfect setting, really, to welcome fall.
This past week following the festivities, we continued our celebrations at home with another Michaelmas story, The Most Beautiful Dragon in the Whole World, telling it throughout the week. I prepared a chalk drawing to go with the story and after working quite hard on it, was pleased with the oohs and aahs it illicited from the girls, as well as the enthusiasm they demonstrated at each telling of the tale, Ani eagerly identifying Aria as Micha-el and Aria doing the same for Ani and the shooting stars. (I was thankful for the illustration of the dragon provided in the story; it gave me a good jumping off point for creating the chalk drawing scene.)
We made dragon bread, Aria making her own dragon and Ani and I collaborating.
Finally, I introduced red for our Painting Day this week, talking about all the things created by the color – the dragon in the story, for example, as well apples, fall leaves, etc – then the girls painted “dragon’s fire” using both yellow and red and mixing them to create orange.
All in all, I felt it was a successful first festival celebrated as homeschoolers. I would have liked to have sewn up a felt dragon and put on a puppet play to go with the story, but that will have to wait for next year, when hopefully I have a little more time to sew. I’m taking notes on all the ideas I don’t get to this year, so we have some new and exciting things for next year. In the meantime, though, we are all enjoying this one.