YARN - From the (shorter) Oxford English Dictionary:

Spun fibre of cotton, silk, wool, or flax.... fibre prepared for use in weaving, knitting...a fisherman's net...any of the strands of which a rope is composed...a (usually long or rambling) story or tale, especially an implausible, fanciful, or incredible one.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Celebrating Light and Community

There are two events at school that mark "the holiday season". The first is Winter Fair, a community gathering of music and food, crafts for the kids to make and art and crafts for the adults to purchase. The silent auction represents the generosity of local businesses and often includes books written some or all of the writers who are part of the school community. Many of the vendors are parents or linked to the schools and the cast of musicians includes professional musicians from town, friends of the school and parents - some are all 3.

The school is decorated to the rafters and looks its best for the event.

The teachers of the youngest children prepare a puppet show that runs multiple times over the day. It is a lovely gift of time and attention.

The children make crafts to sell and prepare food to share in the cafe. During the event they are hosts and consumers and run and play as children do at large family gatherings.

Events at this time of year are always tied to some tradition or another but I feel that these events, Winter fair and the Spiral Walk, steer clear of Santa and overt Judeo-Christian imagery and no mention is made of Solstice, Saturnalia or Pagan anything but the event includes a strong infusion of greenery and candle light. The sense of festival, hope and sharing are tradition themselves. In my mind it is the best of the season.

The second event is the Spiral Walk.  The older children walk the spiral with their classes at a different time. Parents do not participate except with the youngest children.

From  a darkened gym drifts music - this year it is piano; other years it has been violin or woodwinds. Inside, taking up much of the floor lies a spiral of pine boughs, a table set with unlit candles and, not visible until fresh-from-outside eyes adjust, in the dark sit silently the parents and older siblings of my son's class.  Eventually we hear the shuffling of feet and hushed but familiar voices outside the door.  The children are led in by the teachers and as they pass the circle of families each joyfully slips onto the lap that belongs to them.  The teachers light the candles and tell us that the candles represent the earth, plants, animals and humans and they tell us an abbreviate summary of the story that has accompanied the lighting of the candles in the class in recent weeks. I am not doing this justice.

One teacher walks to the centre of the spiral and in turn each child walks the spiral of fragrant green boughs and is given a small lantern which they carefully carry on the path that leads out of the spiral. On the way they gently place their lantern on one of the gold stars within the spiral.  This boisterous group of high energy children, barely more than toddlers, are silent and participate with rapt attention.

The dark, the music, the light, the ritual, the coming together, the ceremony create a quietly uplifting meditation on hope and perseverance. I leave feeling more relaxed than I arrived and with renewed strength to continue to find and create pockets of light.

The children are excited to share with us the gingerbread cookies they have made and we all gather in the classroom for cider, cookies and an explosion of energy before the term ends for the holidays.