Whether your family celebrates Chanukah, Christmas, Solstice and/or another tradition, there is surely a deep mystery at this time of year. The natural world seems to be asleep, while most major religions join in a period of hopeful longing for, and eventual celebration of, the return of light. To begin Winter Spiral, we enter quietly into the darkened movement room space, where a feeling of reverence and expectation envelops us. Then we gather together around a spiral path built up of evergreen branches, with a single lighted candle at its center. Each child and/or adult will be invited to walk the path and to light his or her individual candle from the light at the spiral’s source. There is often an “angel” to accompany the early childhood students, and a parent may also walk with their child, as needed. While retracing the spiral, each child will place her or his candle on a holder along the path. As child after child, or adult after adult, repeats this solemn and careful gesture the spiral and the entire room slowly fills with a warm light; the light of many small candles whose source is the same. This simple and beautiful ceremony, accompanied by instrumental music, is the essence of the winter spiral. When everyone who wishes to has completed the spiral, we close with a few minutes of quiet contemplation before departing for the evening.
The candles we carry are embedded in an apple. The apples represent ourselves; for buried in the heart of each apple is the five-pointed star, a symbol of our highest selves. The children may take their candles home after the festival. To preserve and reflect upon the reverent mood of the festival, you may wish to light your child’s candle during dinner, or bedtime, while sharing a story, a song, or a prayer. The candles and apples will be passed out by teachers and helpers, as families prepare to leave.
The young children, especially, will have various reactions to this experience. What your child is experiencing may or may not be outwardly obvious, and you can honor this time by preserving the mood of wonder and quiet contemplation as long as possible. A quiet ride home with no radio, tapes or errands to run, and a peaceful dinner and bedtime are helpful to give your child time to “digest” their festival experience. Finally, we provide a gentle reminder that your child’s experiences at this age do not require any intellectual explanation. The experience itself and their “wonderings” will stay with them, if we don’t spoil the mood with our adult consciousness. If your child is a questioning sort, you can respond almost indefinitely with, “Hmmm, that was something, wasn’t it?” or “It was quite special” or “I wonder?” type of responses.