festival of courage
Michaelmas, also known as The Festival of Courage, is the acknowledgement of the coming of Winter and the need to gather resources and strength. The stories of dragons conquered, give us strength to slay the dragons of our modern age, such as materialism and egoism. The autumn equinox is traditionally a time of mixed feelings, matching the changing of the seasons. In earlier times it was an occasion for gratitude for the harvest’s bounty but also a time of concern about the more challenging days ahead. As the days grew shorter and Summer ceded to Fall, it was a time to look inward and find one’s own strength and courage, as opposed to the outward push of spring. It is a time for children to harvest what was sown in the spring and what grew all summer. The earth draws its energy inwards, and so do children. With autumn, the earth draws into herself, and we also begin to draw into ourselves. Winter is the season of inner contemplation. When we look within ourselves, who knows what dragons we will find?
The struggle of St. George and the dragon is also a powerful image. There is not only courage needed to deal with the outer cold and darkness, but also within ourselves courage is called for to shine light on those personal challenges we face as socially and morally-maturing human beings. When the deeper inner meaning of festivals is contemplated, a nourishing and sustaining quality enables us to participate and enrich our own lives and the lives of our families and our community.
Each September, we hold a school-wide celebration for students only, during the school day. In the spirit of Michaelmas, stories are shared about taming or slaying dragons. Students also enjoy an obstacle course, picnic, singing and dragon-themed crafts, art and bread. Students and faculty all wear red and reflect on the mood of the changing seasons and the areas in their lives that demand courage and fortitude. These activities blend the gifts of harvest with the courage needed to face life’s obstacles.
Kindergarten students have their own version of this celebration at the KinderHouse.