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Families at Cardiff Steiner Early Years Centre, Roath celebrated on 15 December with their distinctive Advent Spiral. Families spent a wonderful morning enjoying a nativity ringtime presented by the children and teachers before sitting down together to share a snack of ginger biscuits, mince pies and children’s tea. A wonderful puppet story introduced the theme of light in the darkness, before children, parents and teachers gathered in the hall for the Advent Spiral.
The Advent Spiral is perhaps the most deeply moving community festival of their year. The room is quiet and filled with a mood of wonder and quiet anticipation. Each child in turn, holding an apple with a small candle, slowly walks to the centre of a spiral path of evergreen boughs, interspersed with golden stars. They light their candle from the candle in the centre - symbolising the inner light we will need to draw from during the dark season ahead.
On the return each child places their candle carefully down along the edges of the spiral path, choosing their own place, lighting the way for the other children. Children and parents join in seasonal songs as the children proceed through the garden, and when all the children have had their turn, the whole path is aglow, like a shining garden of lights.
It is a truly moving ceremony that celebrates the community and the individual children - a chance to see the children, the gifts and light they bring and carry carefully out into the world. It is beautiful to watch the light strengthen in the room as the ceremony progresses, and amazing to watch these young children participate with such concentration and reverence.
Winter festivals of light are common around the world. As the days get shorter we move through a time of darkness towards the longest night at the winter solstice, and when Christmas arrives, a turning point is reached, the light increases, days grow longer and nature reawakens. The advent spiral reflects winter's dark growing to a close and the renewed promise that spring light and life will begin again.
Advent (from the Latin ‘to come’) is the period of preparation and expectation starting four Sundays before Christmas. More a time for making ready, than celebration, it's a time when children at the Centre are helped to practice preparation, patience, and measured anticipation for the things to come. Years ago it was used for fasting and for inner reorientation. Today, this long festival still offers the space for peaceful contemplation, for finding oneself, even among all the outer preparations which may occupy us.