Joy & Wonder Series: Celebrating Birthdays the Waldorf Way
by Sarah Baldwin, Waldorf teacher and owner of Bella Luna Toys
One of my favorite traditions as a Waldorf kindergarten teacher was the celebration of a child’s birthday. Traditions and rituals help children mark the passing of a year and celebrating a child’s birth honors his or her presence in our lives, and in the world.
Most Waldorf early childhood teachers tell a variation of the “Birthday Story.” The story usually includes a child looking down on the earth from the starry sky, and choosing to cross the “rainbow bridge” to come to his or her family on the earth.
One version of this story can be found in the book Beyond the Rainbow Bridge
by Barbara Patterson. There is also a beautifully illustrated picture book called Little Angel’s Journey
by Dzvinka Hayda with another version of the story.
Many teachers use a wooden birthday ring, a European tradition, to celebrate birthdays. This is a tradition which can also be incorporated at home!
A wooden birthday ring
usually has 12 or 16 holes. To use the ring, the number of candles corresponding to the child’s age are spaced evenly in the holes of the ring (in brass candle holders that fit the ring), and the remaining holes are filled with festive wooden birthday ring decorations
Before lighting the candles, a parent or teacher can tell the story of a child’s life by remembering the important milestones from each year.
Aidan was born on the first day of summer. It was a warm, sunny and beautiful day. When his mother knew it was time for her baby to be born, his mother and father packed their things and drove to the hospital. Aidan must have really wanted to meet his mother and father, for he came very quickly! Soon after he arrived, his big sister Hannah came with his Nana and Papa to meet him for the first time.
During his first year on earth, Aidan learned to do many things! He learned to sit up by himself, to roll over, and then to crawl. During that first year he took his first airplane trip and flew to California to meet his Grammy and Grandpa for the first time, and before his first birthday, Aidan took his first steps and learned to walk. He said his first word, which was “HOT” and then learned more words like “Mama” and “Dada.” The earth took one full trip around the sun after Aidan was born, and when June 21 came again Aidan was one-year-old!
[HERE YOU WOULD LIGHT THE FIRST CANDLE IN THE BIRTHDAY RING.]
During Aidan’s second year on earth, he learned to do many more things. He became very good at walking and then learned to run and jump. He learned to sit up by himself, to roll over, and then to crawl. He learned many more words and soon he couldn’t stop talking! During his second year, his cousins Andrew and Lena came to visit from Michigan, and his family took a trip to Grand Lake. Then after another trip around the sun, June 21 came again and Aidan was two-years-old!
[HERE YOU WOULD LIGHT THE SECOND CANDLE IN THE BIRTHDAY RING.]
Add the events and developmental milestones for each year of a child’s life, lighting one candle for each year, until you get to the child’s new age, at which point you can conclude with:
Now the earth has made another trip around the sun. Today is June 21 and now Aidan is [four]-years-old!
LIGHT THE LAST CANDLE.
After the last candle is lit, you can sing “Happy Birthday” or another birthday song, and follow up the birthday ring story with cake and gifts.
Here are some other suggestions for bringing meaningful traditions to your child’s birthday at home:
- Start your preparations the evening before your child’s birthday. Before bed, you can light a candle and share this verse:
When I have said my evening prayers,
And all my clothes are on my chair,
And Mother/Father switches off the light,
I’ll still be  years old tonight.
But from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold,
Tomorrow, I’ll be  years old!
 kisses when I wake,
 candles on my cake.
- The evening before your child’s birthday, give her the number of kisses for her age for the past year and tell her that when she awakes, you’ll give her one more kiss in the morning. For example, three kisses when saying goodnight, and four kisses in the morning for a child turning four.
- Birthdays call for the royal treatment! Before telling the birthday story or lighting the birthday ring, ceremoniously place a birthday crown on your child’s head, and a birthday cape on his shoulders.
The Birthday Book
by Ann Druitt has many more wonderful ideas for bringing meaning in the Waldorf tradition to your child’s special day.
We wish you a happy birthday
A joyous and celebrated birthday
To our dear Aidan
May you have a long, long life!
BIG BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION GIVEAWAY!
This week we're giving away a HUGE birthday celebration pack! One lucky fan will win:
Enter by 6/28/17. Winner announced on Instagram on 6/29/17
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