Spring goeth all in white,
Crowned with milk-white may:
In fleecy flocks of light
O’er heaven the white clouds stray:
White butterflies in the air:
White daisies prank the ground:
The cherry and the hoary pear
Scatter their snow around. Robert Bridges
At Whitsun time, we notice that white abounds all around us in nature; the hawthorn (may) trees, the abundance of ox-eye daisies and frothy cow parsley umbels by the wayside and the apple blossom in our gardens, to mention but a few. It feels like nature is celebrating. Everything is pure and white and plentiful.
Whitsun ( Pentecost) is the seventh Sunday after Easter. In the Church calendar it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s 12 disciples ( the apostles).
There is an emphasis at this time on the need to understand one another and to communicate by speaking the others language (metaphorically speaking). Then there can be no misunderstandings.
This extract comes from All Year Round :
“The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of Truth. In celebrating Pentecost, we celebrate the insight that the singularity of the individual is sacred, that a spark of divine fire shines from each one of us and that the accord between individuals rests on the ability truly to understand one another. To communicate in a spirit of truth is often a difficult challenge in today’s world. If this challenge can be met, even in modest ways, then the vision of the dove descending – the symbol of the holy spirit and the symbol of peace – becomes a reality for individuals, for groups for nations”
We have celebrated Whitsun at school since my eldest daughter started playgroup six years ago and it is one of my favourite school festivals. Now that she is in the main school, I don’t know how they celebrate it, apart from dressing in white and having a special Whitsun assembly, but I have had the privilege of being part of the Kindergarten Whitsun festival and so I thought it would be nice to share a bit about Whitsun and how we celebrate in the Early Years.
The Whitsun festival is one of the most moving of the festivals we celebrate at school. Everyone is dressed in white, including the parents, to set the mood. There is a round table in the middle of the room with a sea of tea light candles on it, each one sitting on its own golden scallop shell. There are swathes of white flowers and little white paper doves hanging from them. We are seated in a circle some distance from the table; the children seated in front with their teachers and the parents in the row behind them. Parents who speak different languages stand up and recite a Whitsun poem translated into their language and then we sing beautiful Whitsun songs whilst the teachers and assistants light their candles followed by the children, each one brought up individually to light a candle ( their individual spark ). By the end, all the candles are lit and there is a beautiful golden glow in the room and the Whitsun songs add a special ethereal quality to this wonderful rich, yet simple festival as we are ‘all of one voice’.
The songs we sing can be found in this book and include:
Ai-ya little bird
My Pigeon House
White bird is flying in the sky
And we end with:
Clouds of Rain ( which we sing in a round – I get emotional every time with this one! )
When we leave, each child receives a posy of white flowers and a little dove biscuit lightly coated in white icing sugar. All these little details make the festival so special.
A cheeky little snail found its way onto my daughter’s posy!
At home, we also set a Whitsun mood. Our house is colourful and bright and somehow white cloths don’t seem to work here, so we use light yellow cloths and everything else is white; the flowers, the candles, the little white doves hanging from the mobile.
I have a main nature table in the lounge and also a smaller, simpler version in the dining area where we spend the most time. I try to create the mood of the season a little in every room of the house, mainly through flowers and plants. It feels so nourishing.
Right now, on our main Nature Table, there are twelve tea light candles surrounding a larger candle, representing Jesus and the 12 Apostles and I have hung little white paper doves from my two mobiles. Simple instructions on how to make them can be found in the book All Year Round.
We had a little session after school this week making paper doves for the girls’ rooms, now that they each have a mobile over their own nature tables. That was fun and a good way to reconnect.
We will keep this nature table up for a while, until midsummer. It will be updated for my younger daughter C’s birthday, but it is nice to have simple contemplative mood on the nature table at this time before all the activity and outwardness of summer months.