The Festival of Michaelmas

The festival of Michaelmas, which is rooted in harvest traditions from the Middle Ages, falls just after the autumnal equinox, as northern climates head into the dark, cold winter months. Michael is an archangel in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but the festival can be observed by people of all faiths and spiritual traditions, as well as by those simply seeking fortitude in overcoming challenges large and small. 

 
 Under a cloud-lit sky, a WSL 7th grader triumphs, having subdued the dragon of darkness with her sword of light.

Under a cloud-lit sky, a WSL 7th grader triumphs, having subdued the dragon of darkness with her sword of light.

 

During the festival, joy and exuberance can be seen on the children’s faces, which is a hallmark of Waldorf education. Throughout the school year, teachers incorporate many special events, such as Michaelmas, that reach children in mind, body, and spirit. The result is engagement in the curriculum, an intrinsic enjoyment of school and learning, and a spirited school community with friendships across the grades.

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The festival begins on the school’s athletic field with an all-school pageant. Each class performs a portion of a play, where St. Michael confronts the dragon. The play ends with the symbolic slaying of the dragon, which calls on us to overcome the dragons of our age—egotism, untruth, fear, and hatred.

The image of Michael battling dark forces with his sword of light gives children courage and helps them have faith in their own resolve for difficult tasks ahead. Not by coincidence, this festival often falls close to the Jewish High Holidays and the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, both occasions for self-purification.

After the pageant, children process to a larger field in Lexington for a dragon-themed game, carrying festive colored banners and singing songs of St. Michael.

 The Waldorf School of Lexington’s campus abuts the Minuteman Rail Trail, connecting the school to Arlington’s Great Meadows as well as green space in our home town of Lexington.

The Waldorf School of Lexington’s campus abuts the Minuteman Rail Trail, connecting the school to Arlington’s Great Meadows as well as green space in our home town of Lexington.

During the games, each class in grades 1 to 6 represents a village that has had its jewels stolen by dragons, played by 8th graders. Villagers must dash across the field to reclaim their jewels while avoiding the dragons. They are aided in their journey by angels (also 8th graders) and protective trees (7th graders).

 
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Thank you to all the parents and teachers who sewed and felted such amazing Michaelmas banners, and to the creative efforts of many hands in recreating the dragon body this year! It was another wonderful festival.

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