Martinmas, or the festival of St. Martin, is celebrated around November 11 with a nighttime lantern walk.
This festival is celebrated at Waldorf schools around the world and in many homes every year. It is a wonderful way to reflect on the changing season as fall's bounty gives way to the advent of snow.
Learn more about this festival below as we share ways you can celebrate with your own family.
The Origins of Martinmas
Traditionally Martinmas coincided with the many busy activities around farms in late fall. This would be the time a farmer would harvest crops before the first snow as well as time to plant winter wheat for flour for the new year.
These farm traditions often resulted in feast days, which marks Martinmas as a precursor to what we know today as Thanksgiving.
Who Was St. Martin?Martinmas dates back to the Middle Ages and the veneration of St. Martin, a 4th-century bishop who founded an abbey in Tours, France. According to legend, one wintry day he encountered a shivering beggar and cut his cloak in half to give the poor man warmth. That night, Martin had a vision of Jesus wearing Martin’s divided red cloak. Martin is now the patron saint of tailors, as well as that of France.
Today in many European countries, the Martinmas festival culminates in a lantern walk at night, followed by a bonfire and songs. Traditionally the lanterns were carved out of harvested gourds, and illuminated with a candle—the origin of our jack-o-lantern—but can also be made of paper or jars. The lanterns and the bonfire symbolize light in the darkness of winter, and give hope to the poor through the good deeds of St. Martin.
How to Celebrate Martinmas at Home
The books All Year Round and Crafts Through the Year have instructions for making different types of lanterns. If you'd like to carry on a lantern walk with your own family, you can watch our tutorial on how to make one right here.
The Autumn volume from the Wynstones collection of seasonal books has a number of lantern songs that can be softly sung on your evening procession.
Last, but not least, don’t forget to have some treats ready when you come inside to get warm after your walk, like hot cider, ginger cookies and apples.
Wishing you and your family a very festive Martinmas celebration!
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Love this! One way our family also honors St. Martin is to purchase or donate gently-used coats on Martinmas, as well as purchase new warm socks for the homeless. It brings the holiday full circle that way.
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