Today, December 13th, is Santa Lucia day, a beloved holiday celebrated worldwide in Waldorf schools and also celebrated throughout Scandinavia. The day honors Saint Lucy, a Swedish girl, who snuck food to her starving people. She wore lit candles in a wreath on her head so she could see her way in the dark with arms full of food. There are many versions of the Santa Lucia story, including one where her wreath of candles light the way for a ship delivering food during a storm. It is another celebration of light in the darkest time of year.
At Swallowtail, St. Lucia day is celebrated in the Swedish tradition, with a candlelit procession of girls and boys, wearing white robes, and singing songs together. The oldest girl in the second grade wears a wreath of lit candles on her head and she leads her classmates through the school, delivering traditional Swedish saffron buns to all the students.
Why the Saints?
Stories of the Saints are brought to children in Waldorf schools during the second grade because their meaning resonates with children during this stage of development. Children make a big leap, intellectually and behaviorally, when they go from first to second grade. While the first grader is intent on pleasing their teacher, the second grader tends to seize opportunities for mischief. In second grade, children hear fables, animal tales, and stories about the Saints that mirror their development. The stories of the Saints, in particular, are told so these children can identify with people who have done good deeds for others. Though second graders experience consequences for their new-found “naughty” or “mischievous” behavior, the children are reassured through these stories that they are inherently good people.
How are the stories brought to students?
They are woven throughout the day’s lessons in song, instrumental music, literacy, movement, and art. The beauty of the Waldorf curriculum is that there is freedom for the teacher to shape each lesson in a way that will resonate the most with the temperament of their class. The teacher chooses which Saints’ stories to tell, based on the needs of their class.
The second grade teacher will first present a story in the oral form – usually with an illustration on a chalkboard to support and enliven the storytelling. St. Francis of Assisi, seen above in chalk, is a saint whose adventures are commonly told to second graders because of his gentle nature and heroism.
The stories will live in academic lessons, for days and sometimes for several weeks. Below, are main lesson books made by the second grade children, which feature both drawings and writings about various saints.
The stories of the saints also weave their way into art and craft lessons, as shown below in beeswax and free drawing.
As with all Waldorf curriculum, the lessons from the Saints are presented in an all-encompassing way. Children learn valuable social lessons though the stories, while they are also learning academically!