Around 11th November each year, Steiner Schools across the globe celebrate Martinmas, or the festival of St. Martin, with a night time lantern walk. The purpose of the lantern walk, a long standing Autumn tradition within Waldorf Education, is to inspire children during our passage into the part of the year which is the most dark, to cultivate light and warmth within our hearts. Unlike the fire and vitality of St John’s or the flowers and dancing of Mayday, the Martinmas celebration is quiet, reflective, and meditative.
Throughout the weeks leading up to Martinmas, the children of Nant-y-Cwm sing Martinmas songs, learn the story of St Martin, and create their lanterns from willow and tissue paper under the guidance of their Class Teacher.
On the day of the Martinmas Festival, parents are invited to join their children at the School as the sun goes down and the evening descends. Beginning with a story and a snack in a darkened classroom, basked in the gentle light of decorated candle-filled jars and surrounded by seasonal greenery, the children and their parents then gather outside on the playground to light their lanterns and begin their walk.
The mood of the evening is calm and reverent as parents, teachers, and children walk up into the woods that surround and envelope the valley, their lanterns held aloft. On returning to the School, the Festival closes with singing. Those who have taken part in Martinmas are encouraged to maintain the serene energy gathered from the celebrations while they travel away from the School and as they return to their homes.
The soft glow of the Martinmas lanterns are an inkling of the candles to come for the Advent Spiral in December, the Winter Solstice drawing closer and the importance of maintaining the light and warmth within ever more important.