Nicholas was already occupied on the computer, finding bird pictures for some scavenger hunt cards he was making for a friend. There's a great way to build spelling skills! But the girls were in need of some time with their Mama. And there was that Michaelmas celebration that I had wanted to play with...to see where we could take it, but didn't have time to do at the beginning of the week when I had originally planned it. Late is better than never, right?
We are not a religious family. I had never heard of Michaelmas before reading books about Waldorf education. There is no real significance to the celebration for us, and in that I struggle a bit. But new traditions, especially fun ones, need to start somewhere, and I'm game for building our own traditions. I used All Year Round to inspire the projects we did today.
As the girls were playing, I gathered up the ingredients for making a harvest loaf. As the yeast was proofing, I read them the story of Saint George and the Dragon. Then we made our way over to the kitchen and I read the story of Michael and the Dragon while adding ingredients and mixing them together. I'm looking forward to enjoying our harvest loaf as part of our afternoon snack!
After lunch, while Astrin rested, we decorated candles. The project gave us two options - we could use modelling beeswax and simply roll out shapes and press them by hand into the candles, or we could use melted wax and paint designs on the candles. We used leftover pieces of old beeswax candles as our paint. Here's how we did it:
1. Gather supplies and prepare the work area:
~ I used an old vinyl tablecloth to catch any spills or splatters, as hot wax can fly off a paintbrush as well as paint can.
~ We further protected our workspace from spills by using parchment paper muffin papers underneath our candles, and to pour any unused melted wax into. These worked great, as the wax, when cool, simply peeled right out of the paper and we could reuse it again in a matter of minutes.
~ We found a synthetic paintbrush that I didn't mind never using again for paint.
~ We used a small gravy ladle to melt the wax in, again, an item that I didn't mind if we ever used it again. Beeswax is one of those things that I really don't like cleaning up after!
~ A candle and matches, for melting the beeswax
~ Candles for painting on. I found some at a thrift store that were about 2 inches in diameter, and these were perfect.
~ Your beeswax. As I mentioned, we used leftover beeswax from candles. You could also use small or broken beeswax crayons too. I wouldn't recommend using a crayon made of a synthetic wax...I don't imagine it would smell too pretty.
2. Melt the beeswax:
~ This was my job. It's simply a matter of placing a small chunk of beeswax into the spoon and holding it over a lit candle.
~ Be careful not to get too close to the flame - beeswax will start to burn at a relatively low temperature. I gently swirled the beeswax in the spoon to help it melt faster.
~ Oh, and be aware that the bottom of your spoon will likely turn black.
~ Once the wax is melted, it can be removed from the flame and your little one can dip his or her brush right into the spoon. If it starts clumping, simply hold it back over the flame.
3. Let the painting begin!
~ Painting with beeswax was a lot like painting with paint...dip the brush and paint on the surface of the candle.
~ The wax will harden quickly, so use lots of short strokes, which was my children's preferred method. I dotted the wax onto my candle in an attempt to give my dragon a scaled look. It worked great for the red eye, claws, and neck plates.
~ Like painting on a vertical surface, the wax may drip down if too much is put in one spot. Unlike paint though, I imagine that the beeswax could be chipped off after it hardens if it ends up in the wrong place.
4. About changing colours:
~ I poured any leftover beeswax into a muffin paper, then peeled it out once it had cooled and hardened.
~ I was only prepared to part with one spoon, so our colour changes were not absolute or perfect...there was always a little of the last colour getting mixed into the new colour being added. This worked out well, though, because we only had a few colours to work with. Each person had the same but slightly different colours on their candles.
~ It is so much easier to cleanup from painting with beeswax than with paint! Essentially, after the last candle was done, and the remaining wax was poured out and hardened (as in step 4 above), everything we used, from the muffin papers to the paintbrush to the spoon and the leftover wax, was put back into our stash of beeswax stuff. There was nothing to wash or scrub clean, because it was really about as clean as it was going to get.
By the time we got to the end of the day, which was full of singing, tickle kisses, and laughing just for the sake of laughing, I discovered the key for what this celebration will mean to me. I mused to myself that our harvest loaf was the first bread I'd made since the weather started getting warmer in the spring. I feel ourselves moving out of sweltering days and into days where the heat from the stove and oven is a welcome thing. Perhaps the dragon can symbolize our need for fire to warm our toes and noses as the days get chillier. Perhaps the bread can symbolize the change in the rhythm of the seasons. Perhaps the soft glow of the candles can represent moving into quieter, more reflective times.