Birthdays are celebrated in a special way according to Waldorf tradition and as the dropping-off parent I was privilaged to be able to partake in a celebration that predates the sugary, glitzy traditions we have today.
M's teacher gathered 10 children and myself into a circle on the mat, holding hands to form a ring. Each child was quiet and observant, filled with anticipation. Makaila chose a colour for her head shawl and a knitted crown was placed on top, keeping it in position.
Ater the morning songs we sat on the mat and listened to the story of the little angel who asked her big angel what that was below them. It was earth, and upon closer inspection they could see a couple longing for the birth of their child. The longing to go to earth and that couple grew so strong in the little angel that the big angel knew there was nothing left for her to do but to accompany the little one to earth and to the couple.
They made the long journey and the little angel had to give up her wings and her heavenly outfit before crossing over the rainbow bridge and falling into a deep sleep. But not before the big angel promised to always be at her side and if ever she felt lonely she would know her angel was there to protect her.
Her teacher then went on to describe what a very special day it was the day she was born, one that those who experienced it will never forget. And about what a special child she is and how much love she has brought to her family.
Meanwhile I'm watching both my wide-eyed daughter soak it all up, and all the other wide-eyed children, while I fought to keep back the tears. Words of truth that go right to the heart.
After that Makaila sat in the teacher's chair while we each went up, shook her hand and wished something for her - being mostly boys there were a whole lot of wishes for cars, trucks, buses etc. Her teacher wished her a good final year at daycare (also hard not to let the tears flow - knowing she will start school next August.) We started and ended with some singing and the kids were all watching me to see if I knew the words to these special songs - which of course I didn't - but I could fake it!
Then we sat at the table, a candle was lit in front of M and she had a little package to open. Each child receives a hand-made gift from their teacher - it is the loveliest of gestures!
We drank saft (cordial/punch) and ate from a sweet bread wreath baked the day before in their group. Each person received a piece of M's birthday wreath and the rest was sent home with me to share with the remainder of the family. M then got to chose what songs she would like us to sing before finishing up the celebrations. Finally she blew out the candle and we all sat back on the floor so one of her friends could present her with a gift - a drawing of M and her brother. Only the very simplest of gifts are allowed - nothing bought.
The celebration was over and I left them to enjoy the rest of the day.
Memories for a lifetime.
For the critics of Waldorf education reading and quoting my blog:
In terms of the religious implications/traditions/teachings I have to say that I am aware of them and feel ok about them, obviously you need to as a Waldorf parent. But it is something we as Waldorf parents discuss. We are not blind.
While I'm not entirely clear in my own beliefs - other than there being some sort of higher being, I do think it is important to have beliefs - and to understand that they may change throughout life. My partner and I educate our children to believe in life beyond the here and now, but also to teach them that there are many different beliefs about what that entails. The concepts of Mary, Joseph and Christianity are the believes of many, but they are not the only ones.
I grew up with an athiest father, was taught nothing about religion and was embarressed as a young adult about my lack of knowledge and understanding. Religion is such a huge part of our lives and our history, our children should be taught it.
As for the angel story - it could just as well be New Age as Christianity.
Ultimately we as parents are responsible for educating our children on the finer points of life - beliefs, morals, priorities, behaviour - and with any education there will be things we need to contemplate, supplement and discuss as a family.