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Shining Light in Darkness: Why Martinmas Matters

Shining Light in Darkness: Why Martinmas Matters
Kara Steere

Festivals in Waldorf schools reflect the cycles of the natural world, bringing rhythm and predictability to the year, all of which support healthy childhood development.

The mid-November celebration of Martinmas falls between two bookend celebrations that burst with color and sound: Michaelmas and year-end celebrations. Martinmas comes as the darkness of winter is beginning to extend over us — both over us in the natural world as the days grow shorter and we near the winter solstice, and over us as individuals who are adjusting and preparing for the solitude and reflection of longer, colder nights ahead.

Also known as the Lantern Walk, the festival of Martinmas dates back to the early fourth century. A young soldier named Martin of Tours was traveling to the city of Amiens. As he rode his horse through the city’s archway, he saw a poor man huddled as he sought shelter from the cold. The sight stirred Martin to action. He dismounted, took off his cape, and cut it in two pieces. Martin then used the first piece to cover the poor man. Afterward, Martin dreamt of an angel who was wearing the same cape. His dream had a profound effect for Martin and he devoted his life to bringing warmth and light to those who need it. Martin is now known as the patron saint of beggars and outcasts,

In preparation for Martimas, early childhood through grade 2 students make lanterns. The evening of the festival, families gather in quiet reverence and process through a path in the natural world by lantern light.

As the dark nights of winter near, Martinmas reminds each of us of our own inner light that must be allowed to shine as well as carried out into the world to be shared with others. This quiet, reverent festival is a celebration of the hope that gives us protection from the darkness of winter.

handmade ball jar lanterns glowing orange in the dark

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