The Festival of Martinmas

On November 10, the Waldorf community will celebrate the festival of St. Martin (the date of his death was November 11, 397 AD.).  The festival of Martinmas dates back to the fourth century when Martin was a young soldier.  He journeyed to the city of Amiens in France. 

As much as I enjoy the freedom and expansion of summertime – I LOVE Autumn.  It truly is my favorite time of year – the transition between the heat of summer and the cold of winter –  there’s just an energy in the air that’s palpable and exciting to me.

My family has been a part of a Waldorf community in San Diego for almost 8 years and there are a lot of things that I love about it, but one of the things that I find most endearing are the festivals and traditions celebrated in the school.  Personally, I didn’t grow up with a lot of traditions so when I found Waldorf schools, I found what I’d been missing (but didn’t even realize that I’d been missing!).

On November 10, the Waldorf community will celebrate the festival of St. Martin (the date of his death was November 11, 397 AD.).  The festival of Martinmas dates back to the fourth century when Martin was a young soldier.  He journeyed to the city of Amiens in France.   It was a cold, dark night, and he had a small lantern to light his way.  As he was riding his horse through the archway into the city, he saw a beggar lying by the side of the road, seeking shelter from the cold.  Having nothing else to give, young Martin dismounted, took off his red woolen cape, and with his sword, cut it into two pieces.  One piece he gave to the beggar to protect him from the cold.

Later that night, he received a dream that came with such a profound message that he devoted the rest of his life to bringing warmth and light to those in need.  He became well known for his gentleness and unassuming nature, and the day of Martinmas has become a festival of brotherliness.

The tradition at our school is for the children to make beautiful lanterns out of paper mache.  Then on the evening of the festival, the community comes together for the beloved ‘Lantern Festival’ where we light a candle set with in the lantern, hike along a trail, sing songs and afterwards have warm apple cider and treats.  It’s beautiful and I’m so grateful to take part in it!

I find it to be so important in my family, especially now, when life seems to be moving so fast, that we consciously, purposefully and with intention, slow down and reflect on our connection with each other and nature.  Autumn is the time of year (days getting shorter) to start looking inward, to do our best to calm our minds, slow our activities and enjoy the company of one another.

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