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Michaelmas: A Celebration of Courage

High Mowing Students celebrate Michaelmas by wearing red, the color of strength

While food, clothing and shelter are essential for physical survival, the human spirit also has fundamental requirements. We feel a  deep need for connection and we feel a sense of joy and warmth when we experience ourselves as linked to something bigger. We need connection to other humans and animals, connection to the natural world around us, and a connection to deeper meaning and purpose in our lives. The traditions and rituals of seasonal festivals serve to strengthen and deepen these ties and create a sense of being “at home” in our community and in the cosmos.

Students and parents almost always speak about our community when they tell us what they love about our school. At our Senior Chapel service each June, many seniors speak about their fond memories of the rituals and traditions of our seasonal celebrations. We create these festivals together, honoring and repeating 70-year old traditions as well as looking at time-honored holidays with a more contemporary vision. As our community becomes increasingly global, we are becoming familiar with new celebrations which reflect this growing diversity.

Students celebrate Michaelmas on the Oval -- all in red!

The festival of Michaelmas arrives near the autumn equinox, just in time for the beauty and clarity of autumn days. This ancient festival celebrates the archangel Michael who is honored in Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. Michael is associated with courage, inner strength and initiative. Rudolf Steiner, who provided the inspiration for Waldorf Schools, draws a parallel between the iron of the meteor showers that are so prevalent in autumn with the “inner iron or steel” that we must cultivate to act with courage and will in the face of fear and anxiety.

students repair a stone wall on Isaac Frye HighwayIn the lower schools pageants are created in which a colorful dragon is subdued by the sword of a brave and shining St.Michael.  We take this out of the “picture” realm for our high school students and have conversation as well as artistic presentations whose themes include courage and initiative in the face of passivity, ignorance and fear. On the day of our festival, we dress in the color red, celebrate mid-morning with music, food and games and then in the afternoon we leave our campus to go out into the broader world and perform acts of service. For many years we have sent crews of students and teachers to clean Abbott Hill Road.

The ever-darkening days of late November and early December lead us into the festivals of light that surround the winter solstice. We celebrate Hannukah and Christmas with a number of traditions that Mrs. Emmet created in the early years of the school. By far, the most beloved and revered is the Nativity. A simple and yet profound dramatization of the birth of Jesus Christ, this artistic presentation is created without words. Beautiful choral and instrumental music, eurythmy and rich, traditional costumes combine to portray the sacred moment at which a new light came into the world.  Most students and teachers are involved with some aspect of creating the Nativity every year. It is truly a community endeavor! As with all of our traditions, the experience and the memories become a treasured part of being at High Mowing.

by Judy Wachler, HMS English and French Teacher

Click here to view more pictures of Michaelmas.

Posted by HMS on Sunday September, 29, 2013

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Accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Member of the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of New England, The Association of Boarding Schools, and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.
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