Winter Spiral

During the Spiral Walk, we celebrate the turning point in the year when the days become their shortest and the night its longest, and we look for the light which comes from within. In the center of the spiral, a single candle is lit. Each child walks the spiral alone to the center of the spiral, where they light their own candle to place along the spiral. When all the children have walked the path, the whole spiral is aglow with lights.

The Winter Spiral is an important part of our calendar. It symbolizes finding light in the darkness. It is not just one moment, it is a period of time. It is the few weeks before our Winter Break, we share a time of quiet preparation as we go into the darkest days of the year. The shortest day (in the northern hemisphere) is close to the end of December, so by the time we celebrate our holiday traditions, we have reached a turning point and the days begin to lengthen again, the daylight increasing. Nature will begin very slowly to reawaken.

The spiral image can be found in all cultures, ranging from primitive art to 21st century advertising. The spiral is often associated with the cycle of rebirth, time and seasons and sometimes a spiritual journey.

The spiral walk festival is held on or near the winter solstice. The tradition honors the seasonal cycle of light and darkness by arranging a simple spiral labyrinth walk. Everything about the spiral walk is rooted in symbolic meaning: from the form of the spiral to the red apples, evergreen boughs, beeswax candles and the objects placed in the spiral.

THE SPIRAL is one of nature’s many patterns and can be found in shells, flowers, pinecones, fingertips, and galaxies. In this festival honoring the return of light into the world, we use the spiral to represent the seasonal rhythms and the contemplative journey we take to find our own inner “light.”

The physical form of the spiral represents the celestial marking of the seasons. The beginning of the path marks the summer solstice. As we spiral inward through the labyrinth, it represents moving towards and through autumn, where the days grow shorter. The very center of the spiral symbolizes winter solstice: the darkest time of the year. Here we pause at the center before we spiral back outward through spring toward the summer solstice.

Each child's journey through the spiral also represents an inner journey to find his or her own “light” within. In the very center of ourselves, we discover our own beauty, strength, insight, and gifts that we offer the world. We then turn from this discovery within and carry our gifts of radiance back out into the world.

EVERGREEN TREES are found in many myths, often representing the tree of life. These are the trees that weather the winter without going dormant. They represent the regenerative power of life, nature, and the seasons. We use evergreen boughs to represent the sustaining abundance of life on our planet.

BEESWAX CANDLES in Chinese culture are considered a symbol of eternal love and warmth. We use them as our light source in the darkness to symbolize that love is eternally present.

KINGDOMS OF NATURE. We celebrate the diversity of life on our planet by placing among the evergreen boughs objects representing the kingdoms of nature: mineral, plant, and animal.

Deep mid-winter drawing near,

Darkness in our garden here

One small flame yet bravely burns

To show a path whichever turns.

Earth please bear us as we go,

Seeking light to send a glow;

Branches green and moss and fern,

Mark our path to trace each turn

Brother animals, teach us too

To serve with patience as you do.

We walk with candle toward the light

While earth awaits with hope so bright

In the light which finds new birth,

Love may spread over all the earth.

Deep mid-winter drawing near,

May light arise in our garden here.