November 11, 2018
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. -Albert Schweitzer
Today, many families will celebrate Martinmas, a Christian festival that is more popular in parts of Europe than in the United States, and is celebrated in many Waldorf schools.
The festival of Martinmas is traditionally celebrated on November 11. It honors the story of St. Martin, patron saint of beggars and outcasts, who was known for his gentleness and his ability to bring warmth and light to those in need. Martinmas is a wonderful tradition to celebrate with young children, as it is sweet and simple. Read on for more information about Martinmas!
May your inner light glow,
Mary O’Connell, Your Living Arts Weekly blog editor
The Story of Martin
The story of St. Martin comes from France where Martin, a young soldier, passed under an archway of the city of Amiens and discovered a poor beggar huddled there. The man was barely clothed and shivering with cold. Young Martin stopped and took his cape from his own shoulders. He tore the garment in half and covered the poor man to warm him. The following night, Martin had a dream in which he saw Christ wearing this same piece of his cape. The experience confirmed in him his devotion to all humans regardless of their station in life. Martin went on to become patron saint of beggars and outcasts and was known for his gentleness and his ability to bring warmth and light to those in need.
As we journey into the darkest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, we are called to kindle warmth and light in our hearts. The gently glowing lanterns of Martinmas remind us to keep our warm inner light shining as the outer world becomes darker and colder. Cultures around the world celebrate with festivals of glowing lights at this time, from the clay lamps of Diwali to the candles of Santa Lucia, onward to the menorah of Hanukkah and the traditional yule log of the Winter Solstice. Christians celebrate the coming of the light throughout the season of Advent, which culminates at Christmas.
Martinmas Lantern Walks
Communities, families, schools and neighborhoods can gather for a special Martinmas Lantern Walk. Children and their parents come together as the sun sets, carrying handmade lanterns to light up the night.
Reflecting the mood of this inward time of year, Martinmas lantern walks are quiet, meditative celebrations. Following the lighting of the lanterns, families take a walk through the neighborhood park or forest. Sometimes this walk is done in silence, or the group sings special songs learned for the Martinmas celebration. Parents can help their children preserve the mood of the evening by joining in the singing and modeling quiet reverence for the children.
In the above video, LifeWays’ executive director Cynthia Aldinger shares a popular lantern walk song. (If singing this during the walk, you would not include the hand motions):
Glimmer, lantern, glimmer
Little stars a-shimmer
Over meadow, moor and dale
Flitter flutter elfin vale.
Pee-wit, pee-wit, tick-a-tick-a-tick
Here is another popular Martinmas song, from LifeWays Early Childhood Center in Milwaukee. Click here to hear the children singing it.
I carry my little lantern
My lantern, it goes with me.
In heaven the stars are shining
On earth shines my lantern for me.
The lights grow dim as we go in
La bimba la bimba la bim bim bim,
The lights grow dim as we go in
La bimba la bimba la bim, bim bim.
Are you feeling inspired to make some lanterns and take a walk this evening? Here is an online tutorial for some very simple ones.
And here is a tutorial for a paper lantern such as in Cynthia’s video and the photo above.
Foods for Martinmas
Some communities celebrate Martinmas by sharing the story of Stone Soup and making a communal pot of stew, soup or chili for which everyone contributes an ingredient, honoring the central message of sharing.
Some families choose to feast on a food that can be cut in half and shared with the family member next to you, in the same gesture of Martin cutting his cloak in half and giving it away.
However you choose to celebrate Martinmas, keeping the meal wholesome and simple helps to honor the spirit of the festival.
Creating Your Family Culture
Festival celebrations such as Martinmas can become part of your family culture. LifeWays’ online course “Creating Your Family Culture — An Elemental Approach” guides you through the process of creating a positive, unique family culture using the four elements of nature as your template. And all participants of this course will be receiving a very special gift in the new year…. more details coming soon …. so if you’ve been thinking of signing up for this course, NOW is the time! For more information, click here.