Throughout the year, the Sunfield community comes together for seasonal festivals. Each of the festivals is a celebration of a specific turning point in the year, and recognizing these seasonal turning points is one way the school establishes a yearly rhythm for the children. In preparation of each festival, children and teachers work together rehearsing seasonal songs and preparing plays or presentations, then gather on the farm with family and community members to share their creative work and partake in the festival’s celebratory activities. Please see our Events Calendar for the scheduled date of each festival.
Harvest and Michaelmas Festival
Harvest represents a culmination and Michaelmas marks a time of new beginnings. As nature moves into winter rest, the spirit of Saint Michael urges inner wakefulness and strength. Saint Michael champions truth and subdues the force of darkness, symbolically pictured as the dragon. Saint Michael is a celestial personage found both in Christian and Judaic tradition.
We come together to celebrate the harvest and share an autumn potluck meal. Following the meal, children experience their own sense of balance and strength and learn to help each other overcome obstacles as they make their way through a challenge course set up on Sunfield Farm.
November 11 marks Martinmas, in honor of Martin, a Roman soldier elevated to sainthood for his selfless kindness. Martin is the patron saint of beggars, outcasts, the poor, and the homeless. He is known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature, and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who are in darkness. On the evening of Martinmas, Martin’s deeds of goodness and acts of kindness are remembered with singing and a festival of lanterns.
During the weeks preceding this festival, each school child constructs a beautiful lantern in the classroom. Children, together with teachers and families, gather on the evening of Martinmas to walk through the fields and woods, singing traditional lantern songs. The glimmering lanterns carry light into the approaching darkness of winter.
The legend of Saint Martin tells of his meeting with a beggar shivering at the gate of Amiens. The saint cut his own cloak in two, giving one half to the pauper. By this gesture he recognized the equality of the human spirit in everyone. We echo this gesture of compassion at each Lantern Festival by gathering a collection of warm coats, blankets, and socks to bring to a homeless shelter.
Winter Solstice Festival
In the winter season of long dark nights, many festivals of light are celebrated around the world in all faiths. In its beautiful simplicity, the peaceful celebration of the spiral of stars embraces many symbols of ancient traditions. It is also a visual representation of the return of light as the days grow longer. It allows us to observe and contemplate in quietude, offering a picture of simple beauty and mindful space; for the child it is a journey full of wonder.
During our winter solstice festival, each child is invited to walk into a spiral of evergreen boughs, carrying an unlit candle. At the center of the spiral is a burning candle from which the child lights his or her own candle. Walking out of the spiral, the child places the lit candle on a star amidst the boughs. After all the children have completed their journey in and out of the spiral, we have a beautiful garden of light.
The spiral of evergreens is a reminder of the earth’s green life, prevalent even in the cold of winter. We spiral inward, seeking the birth of light in the surrounding darkness, and we spiral outward, carrying our light into the world.
May Day Festival
In the ancient agrarian cultures of Europe, May Day was a joyful gathering to celebrate new growth after the hardship of winter. In the Celtic tradition, May Day is connected to Beltane, a festival sacred to the sun – “Bel,” the sky god, and “Tane,” fire. The stamping of feet in the dances awakened the earth and assisted the great fire of the sun to rise into summer. The ribbons woven around the maypole represent an ancient talisman of protection to ensure the well being of the newborn season.
Our May Day Festival brings the community together to celebrate the coming of summer. We honor this traditional celebration by the raising of the maypole, bedecked with fresh flowers and ribbons. A family picnic, garland-making, guest musicians, and maypole dances add to the gaiety of the day.