Mid-Winter Festivals …

Celebrating the importance of the inner light that we need to nurture through the dark months of winter.


Rosie Simpson remembers a song from her childhood and ponders the question, ‘Why has it endured when others have been lost?’.  It is so simple and yet holds a truth that is profound in its simplicity.

Mid-Winter in the Lower School

Untitled-1In the lead-up to mid-winter celebrations, throughout the Lower School children make lanterns for the midwinter festival.  The celebration of midwinter begins with the Solstice, and the Taradale Kindergarten Lantern Walk through the Centennial Gardens at the foot of Napier Hill.  This is a magical setting with the waterfall, pond and bridge, and with pathways winding through shrubbery, with shining candles illuminating crystal grottos and floating on the pond.  The Kindergarten Community is taken with the mood of wonder and delight that engenders the evening for adults and children alike.

On the following Sunday afternoon Class 1 families gather in the Eurythmy Hall for a midwinter spiral.  Children carry candles embedded in rosy red apples through an inward spiralling pathway of greenery, to be lit at a central flame.  On the outward journey, each light is then carefully placed along the path until the spiral blazes with light.  The experience is one of contemplation, concentration and the transformation from darkness to light.

There is a mystery in fire that never ceases to kindle fascination in children; to take on the nurturing and protecting of a flame can be a most reverential gesture.  This can speak deeply both to our sense of individual spirit and to what makes us essentially human — the animal kingdom do not light fires for warmth, light, protection, or for sacred purposes.

Parents, enter into the spirit of the midwinter festival by keeping conversations to a minimum and assisting the younger children experience the magic of the night as they make their way with their lanterns through the Scannell Garden.  An experience of child-like wonder for everyone!

Mid-Winter in the High School

Mid-winter for adolescents is a time for inner reflection and contemplation.  It is healthy for them to be asked to consider others, whether it be others in their community, or others in the world.  
As the days grow shorter it is also good to allow them to fully ‘enter the darkness’ as long as they then come back towards the light.

In our High School we celebrate every second year in a slightly different manner;

1    The ‘short version’
Students gather in the hall where a large sheet of canvas with the world map painted on it is spread out.  A guest speaker tells a story from their own experience of overcoming great hardships or obstacles.  Then students come forward and say a few words about a place in the world that is experiencing hardship or somewhere where very positive things are happening and they place a tea light on that spot on the map.  In this way we bring light and hope in a symbolic way to the world’s trouble-spots.

2    The ‘long version’
The hall is set up with a spiral (on the floor) and seating around the edges. A guest speaker addresses the students (as above) and then the symbolism of walking the spiral is explained to the students before they are invited to do so. A time of reflection and contemplation is spent whilst walking toward the middle of the spiral, turning (at the mid-point of winter darkness), then walking out again.  Afterwards, everyone gathers in the High School for a shared meal, preferably a hangi, which the students have helped prepare.


The seven stars were often regarded as Matariki and her six daughters, but are more commonly known as The Seven Sisters.

Near the end of the Māori year (late April) she vanished in the West at sunset, then in early June she became visible once more in the Eastern skies, shortly before dawn.  So the end of the year was identified with her disappearance or heliacal setting in the West as darkness came on and if we look to the tale of Maui and Hine-Nui-Te-Po, we will learn that these were the direction and time of day traditionally associated with darkness, misfortune, grieving and death.

The start of the New Year on the other hand was marked by her reappearance or heliacal rising in the East, shortly before dawn and again this direction and time are associated with light, life, well-being and re-birth.

When Matariki first reappeared, she was greeted with waiata remembering and lamenting all those who had passed away in the preceding year.  But there were tears of joy too, celebrating their lives and the fact that a new year had begun.

Appearing as she did in Winter, Matariki was closely examined for signs as to the seasons ahead.  If the seven stars were indistinct and shimmering, it would be a poor season.  But if each star stood out clearly and distinctly, a warm prolific season would follow.

It was believed that Matariki brought food to humans, so offerings were made to her during the kumara harvest.  Offerings were also made in connection with the taking of game because her appearance came at a time of year when game, grown fat on berries and other foods, was caught and preserved.

The Pleiades occupy a place in the heavens, very close to the ecliptic, the path the Sun follows.  With this placement in the sky and their conspicuous appearance, this star cluster has been associated in many traditional societies, with the yearly cycle of the seasons and has been exalted and venerated by them from time immemorial.