Christmas is a big deal in Britain, but there are many pagan and semi-pagan festivals that coincide with the time of year. It is the end of a year, but also the end of farm work, as everything is dead and dormant. It is also the winter solstice, which was celebrated in pagan Britain. So there is a mishmash of celebrations.
Well, I went to the most wonderful carol performance at Gloucester cathedral..also known as Hogwarts, because Harry Potter was filmed there. The setting is magnificent and the acoustics divine. The entire performance was given by the students and teachers at Wynstones Waldorf school. It was set around 9 Bible lessons from Genesis creation of the Earth to St John’s creation of the Word, read by Upper school children. This was interspersed by music played by various parts of their orchestra, from brass to violin and the most beautiful singing by each part of the school from class 1, but mainly by their upper choir consisting of teachers and students and the most dynamic conductress, who appeared to have organised the entire polished production and received a standing ovation at the end. There was standing room only when I arrived as they began and the enormous and magnificent cathedral was full. It was truly one of the most professional and beautiful performances I have experienced, interspersed with symbolic Eurythmy and a poem on Refugees. (A collection was held for those seeking refuge in Europe. ) The audience also sang some rousing carols, harmonised by the choir.
Gloucester, itself was like a fairyland with lights stretched across the pedestrian street and the cathedral lit up by lights. It truly felt like Christmas. I forgot to bring my camera and so have no photos to show, but it surely was etched in my soul. I kept thinking how amazing it must be to rehearse for this performance, and what effect it must have on the children from small, who attended this magical event, to those that must have rehearsed daily over a long period of time singing these amazingly complicated harmonies. I was truly impressed at what Steiner education has achieved.
CHRISTMAS AT RUSKIN MILL
Christmas is celebrated in many ways at Ruskin Mill. There is first a Lantern Festival (kind of similar to our st Johns festival, where the students make lanterns. These are lit up with fairy lights and hung in the trees. Some are made with willow, covered with paper dipped in diluted cold glue and attached to a polystyrene base that float on the water with fairy lights inside. Some are shaped like creatures of various kinds..some you like. (This is a swan not a duck,although it looks like a duck and although there are many ducks that inhabit the lake and no swans.)
and some you dont like:
Some lanterns were floated on the lake. This is Aaron from the fish farm taking some lanterns out and what they looked like afterwards:
Also the woodland team make stakes wrapped with thick rope that are dipped in oil and petrol and lit along the path.
Also personal lanterns are made with multi-coloured inks and then dunked in oil to make them transparent, and tea lights light up the inside. These we took on a walk around the lake and through the landscape. Many people who live around the area come to join us and then we offer them a supper of lamb hamburgers and hot spiced tea. These were two lanterns I made.
The drama students gave a shadow play about the legend of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods, accompanied by various percussion instruments.
Everyone worked to make the event memorable: from the market garden that spent hours moving wood chips onto the slippery paths to the canteen that made the delicious food and decorated the canteen with candles and oranges
In the last week of term, we also spent time making Christmas wreaths for the various doors and for ourselves too. Here, you can find Holly, which is a beautiful, but prickly bush, and Ivy quite readily. And of course the Christmassy yew trees. We interspersed these with bay leaves and rosemary for scent
Also, as the trees have shed their leaves, you can see real mistletoe.
STAFF CHRISTMAS PARTY
We also had a staff Christmas party at the woodland kitchen., where we ate the yummy mince pies we had made in the bakery and also rich stollen..all organic. The ingredients cost about R10 per mince pie! But since the college is strictly organic, we did this,. I wont even estimate the cost of the stollen that had organic everything, including marzipan we made with organic almonds.
The student council also organised a party for the students, where we came in Christmas jerseys..a kitch British tradition. Luckily my sister had knitted me a BRIGHT red jersey and pixie-like winter hat with versatile uses (not least of which is to cover my hair while baking).
CHRISTMAS JERSEYS or as they all them here..JUMPERS
Its tradition to have some kind of kitchy christmas jumper and funny elf hats. Our students had a party at the end of the year, and these are a few of the christmas jumpers that I never thought people would ever wear.here is a selection:
Every little village and organization has a Christmas market with hand made crafts. I did all my christmas shopping at these markets. This is Ruskin mill’s market with Grace, one of the apprentices and a support worker with a stall selling crochet hats and willow baskets that they made.
WASSAILING. Was ist it?
Wassailing is essentially singing to nature to encourage good harvest, and we spent a lovely evening singing carols to the cows and horses. At last the carols like “In the deep mid winter” and the “the holly and the Ivy” made sense. After which we had mulled juice and mince pies made by the farm managers wife and children. The children loved jumping on the hay bails. The last song was beautifully harmonised: “Silent night”. I am sure the animals were pleased to have one after this!
This is Sally, my landlady and myself with our carol sheets looking at the moon, which surprise, surprise is not covered by cloud.
CELEBRATING THE SOLSTICE
On the solstice,we gathered at Grace’s place which is on a farm on the hill above Nailsworth. We had a roaring fire and ate soup and drank mulled cider. It was the deep mid winter, but the skies were clear and the moon was haloed with a rainbow. We did not even need jackets it was like having a good old South African Braai (without the braai).
I also went to Avebury, which is a small village with the most incredible standing stones. But that will be another post.
Tomorrow is Christmas. it is strange to be away from home. My wonderful landlord and lady, Stephen and Sally have invited me FOR A LENTIL CURRY AND CHRISTMAS PUD. Well why on earth not!