What is Martinmas?
November nights are like no other nights. They are long, they are dark, and they have a LOT of magic in them. November nights feel like something might happen. An opportunity. An adventure.
It is the time of year for Martinmas — a festival named in honor of Saint Martin, the soldier who risked his own safety to help a man in need. Martinmas is perfect for the mood of early November and in cultivating festival life.
As you reflect on the history and meaning of Martinmas and the Lantern Walk, think of the light you can offer the people around you. There might not be much light coming from your lantern, but it could make all the difference for someone experiencing the many darknesses around us.
As the song goes: My lantern, my lantern, shining near and far, shining like a moon, shining like a sun, shining like a silver star.
What is the history of Martinmas?
The history and lore of Martinmas comes from the French story of St. Martin. He was a young man that encountered a destitute man stranded in the city of Amiens. The man was suffering, cold, and alone, and St. Martin shared his own clothing to help the man to stay warm. St. Martin is now the patron saint of outcasts. During Martinmas, we honor his legacy of sharing our light and warmth, especially when and where it is most needed.
What does Martinmas MEAN?
During this time of year in the northern hemisphere, days are shortening. The trees have lost their leaves. There is no snow yet so the world looks gray and brown and black. It might look almost dead — and so we light our lanterns and walk into it. We are the little light of life winding our way through the world as it falls asleep.
This message and intention is at the heart of Martinmas, and the festival, as well as the traditional Lantern Walk associated with it (which happens on November 11) helps us to embody and express that intention.
Ideas for Celebrating Martinmas
A lantern walk is a very special event. It can be as simple as lighting a lantern and walking around your neighborhood or it can be as complicated as gathering a large group and walking through the park or a wooded area with a guide telling the story of the Lantern Prince. The lantern walk symbolizes the process of bringing light to the darkest time of the year, be that literal light or metaphorical. It's a tale of compassion for those less fortunate and a tale of giving without expecting something in return.
Stories for Martinmas
The Lantern Prince
The Lantern Prince is one of our most beloved stories, and is perfect for celebrating and honoring the Martinmas Festival. In this story, the Prince is not like his parents. In fact, he is not like any royal. In addition to being strong, obedient, and confident (common royal traits), he is also very kind and loving. But what makes the Prince unusual is that he is kind and loving to everyone, royal and servant alike. The King and Queen hope that he will grow out of it, but alas, as he grows he only gets more loving and kind. One day he spies a poor beggar woman in the streets and his life is never the same again.
Stream the story or download the transcript to read aloud to your littles in honor of this festival celebration.
Festival of Lights
In this story from the Martin & Sylvia Collection, brother and sister’s town center holds many festive events throughout the year. During December, there are several town traditions, including a “Festival of Lights,” where the shopkeepers decorate their storefronts in lights. When Martin learns that Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights, he begins to discover the similarities between all the festivals and holidays that take place during this time of year. And he and Sylvia are inspired to create a festival of their very own.
Crafts for Martinmas
Make Your Own Martinmas Candles
For this fun project, we teamed up with Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool to provide a simple and easy-to-follow Candle-Making Tutorial for Kids so that you can recreate this experience with your own little ones.
Kid-Friendly Homemade Pretzels
The traditional foods for a lantern walk vary by country, and pretzels are often served in Germany both because they look like the shoe of Saint Martin's horse and because their mirror-image shape is a reminder of his cloak cut in half to cover two.
If you would like to try your hand at homemade pretzels for a Martinmas lantern walk, give this recipe a try.
DIY Japanese Silk Paper Lanterns
For this fun, hands-on craft, we are joined by Jenn of Maplerose, a Waldorf-inspired Homeschool Supply shop. Follow along as Jenn walks us through the steps for making your own DIY Japanese Silk Paper Lanterns.
This craft is inspired by the beloved Sparkle Story “The Lantern Prince” from the So Many Fairies Collection.
About the Authors
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.
Jessica is a content creator, writer, strategist, and vintage pyrex collector. She has a passion for facilitating authentic connection, whether that's through her work at Sparkle Stories or her songwriting.