Find Light in the Darkness: Waldorf Winter Solstice Rituals

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Do you want to establish magical and meaningful winter solstice rituals with your family or homeschool? Host a Waldorf Solstice Spiral to celebrate the return of light. This is one of my family’s favorite winter solstice traditions. Here’s all of my best tips for hosting a winter solstice spiral, including items needed and setting up the spiral itself.

Note: This post is republished from 2015. We no longer homeschool, but the amazing solstice rituals like this Waldorf Solstice Spiral remain one of my favorite homeschool activities ever.

text with how to host a waldorf winter solstice spiral overlaying candles and pine boughs

Celebrate Winter with a Waldorf Solstice Spiral

The Waldorf Solstice Spiral is an annual tradition in our homeschool. It’s a wonderful way to teach kids about the longest day of the year. It’s a fun activity everyone enjoys as we welcome the return of light back into our dreary, short winter days.

Why Do We Walk an Advent Spiral?

I first learned about Waldorf Homeschooling activities from my good friend Melanie. She used to host amazing Waldorf Homeschool Days. The Solstice Spiral was one of my favorite activities.

Cultures all over the world have used spirals to represent internal paths and provide opportunities for reflections. Advent means “an arrival”. In the cold, dark nights of winter, (especially in the northern hemisphere) we look forward to the winter solstice as it means the days will begin to get longer again. The light of spring and summer are returning.

The solstice spiral provides opportunity for self-reflection over the past year as well as intention setting for the coming one. Generally, this is a solemn winter solstice tradition. It might surprise you how much kids both enjoy it and benefit from it.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 - ring in the light from SimplifyLiveLove.com

How to Host Your Own Advent Waldorf Solstice Spiral

I was excited to take over the Solstice Spiral this year and host it myself for the first time. Since we moved out of the barn and into the Passive House, we have the perfect place to host this fun annual event – the barn where we used to live.

The trickiest part about hosting an advent solstice spiral is finding a safe place to house the spiral. Lit candles are involved, so you’ll want to avoid fire hazards. Alternatively, host the spiral outside using natural materials such as stones to mark the spiral. You can also set it up in a garage or barn like we did, if you don’t want to bring it indoors.

Items Needed for Hosting a Winter Spiral

There are many ways to mark out the spiral and participate in this winter ritual. These are the items we use but feel free to substitute items depending on what you have access to. I like to keep it simple and focused around natural items from my own yard.

  • Pine or evergreen boughs – I bought roughly 100 ft from Menards. The skinnier ones were half the price of the larger boughs so that’s what I bought. We ended up doubling them to make them look nice. These are used to make the spiral itself. You could also use stones, shells, even sprinkled grain for the spiral shape.
  • Yellow felt stars – one per child. These are used to mark where the child should leave their candle as they exit the spiral. Again, feel free to substitute. Older children can determine where to put their lights themselves.
  • Apples – one per child, hollowed out to hold a candle. These prevent the wax from dripping on little hands.
  • Candles – one per child to put in each apple, plus a larger candle to light the apple lights from. I like to use small, thin tapered candles for the apples and 1 large column candle for the center.
  • Animal figures, rocks, pine cones – to represent the animal, mineral, natural worlds placed around the spiral.

Set Up the Waldorf Spiral

Set the spiral ring up beforehand. Lay the pine boughs in a spiral formation on the ground. Make your design as large as necessary. If you are hosting a large group for winter solstice, consider adding a one-way in and one-way exit to your spiral. This allows multiple people to use the spiral at one time without bumping into each other with lit candles.

Place felt stars (one per child) evenly spaced along the path so children have a place to put their lit apple.

Place the figurines, rocks, and other items along the spiral as well.

Place the larger candle in the center of the spiral but leave it unlit until the beginning of the ritual.

If you’re indoors, darken the room by covering windows and turning out the lights.

waiting in line for the solstice spiral

Instructions for Kids on Walking the Solstice Spiral

The room should be as dark as possible and the children line up first outside the room, littlest to biggest. The littlest children need to go first because there will be fewer lit candles for them to have to avoid.

For outdoor spirals, huddle the kids together for the explanation and then have them line up at the spiral entrance.

Discuss the solstice and the significance of starting (and ending) the spiral in darkness. Encourage them to reflect on their own light and how they can find light in darkness. (Sometimes this winter ritual brings up emotions we didn’t know were there – and that’s okay!)

Explain to the children that they will light their candles from the central candle and place them on a star in silence before exiting the spiral. After they leave the spiral, the kids will wait for the others to finish by standing around the spiral.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 lighting a candle from SimplifyLiveLove.com

Obviously, younger children may need some help. Encourage children to be very careful to not burn themselves or others with the lit candles. If you think they might need help, have an adult walk with them or use a different candle holder such as old glass jars with luminaries inside them. In all the years that we’ve been doing a solstice spiral, we’ve never had any issues.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 setting the lit candle down from SimplifyLiveLove.com

How to Walk an Advent Spiral

Once you’ve explained everything to the children, an adult starts the spiral by entering the darkness and lighting the larger candle in the center. The adult then exits the spiral. As each child walks, they weave through the spiral with their apples and unlit candles. When they reach the center, they light their candle and then turn around and walk out of the spiral. As they are walking out, each child will find a star to place their candle on.

After each child lights his or her candle, they wait for everyone to finish. Then the children leave the room, still in silence. I’m always amazed at the reverence the children exhibit during the solstice spiral. They take it quite seriously and seem to enjoy it a lot.

This is a somber winter ritual of self-reflection so talking is not allowed. Soft music can play. Melanie always had someone playing a flute. I actually prefer to do the spiral in silence, especially if we do it outside in crisp winter air.

When you are finished, be sure to extinguish all the candles.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 - silenting waiting for everyone to finish from SimplifyLiveLove.com

Celebrating the winter solstice is one of my favorite homeschooling activities and winter solstice traditions for our family. I love that it represents the return of light. The shortest day is on winter solstice which means it is also the longest night. After that, the days start to get longer, and the return of the sun is real. I look forward to the beauty and solemness of the winter solstice spiral all year.

For more Waldorf Homeschooling Ideas:

How to host a Waldorf Solstice Spiral to Celebrate the Winter Solstice

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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7 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this activity. Every Solstice we light our candles at home and the kids love it. I have a brief and simple ceremony. This is a great way to expand the ritual and knowledge. I’m looking forward to it!