What is Martinmas? How we Celebrate this Festival at WSCC

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by Lynda Johnson, Class 1/2 Teacher

The Lantern Walk, or 'Martinmas', is a festival with European roots.  St. Martin was a Roman soldier of the fourth century who gave his cloak to a beggar, and later in a dream saw Christ clothed in his cloak.  He subsequently devoted the rest of his life to helping the disadvantaged.  He was a man who carried an inner light in a time of darkness.

The festival provides us with an opportunity to consciously mark the point in the cycle of the year when the light and warmth of the sun is retreating.  Electricity and heating systems, although they have become modern necessities, tend to decrease our awareness of the deep rhythms of the earth.  The Lantern Walk allows us to experience the change of season in a sensory way, by lighting lanterns and taking a quiet walk along our woodland pathways at night.

Our Early Childhood classes, as well as classes One/Two and Three/Four will make lanterns in their classes prior to the Lantern Walk.  While singing our lantern songs (and tucking away cell phones and chatter), we will then proceed outside along the paths.  The walk is not long but the experience is memorable.  Stepping into the darkness, we are guided just by the light of our lanterns and luminaries placed along the pathway.  Although we will be singing as we walk, we may hear an owl, a crackling stick, or the wind.  If we are lucky, the moon and the stars will be shining overhead. 

When the walk comes to an end, we will then proceed with the same quiet intention and reverence to our cars, and then on to our homes.

To strengthen the mood of the Lantern Walk, some possibilities are:

*Prepare yourself and your children by eating an early dinner or hearty snack beforehand.  All family members should dress warm and wear good walking shoes.

*Although the event is short, you might expand it into an opportunity to have a more mindful day in order to be more receptive to the mood of the evening.  You might try to notice some of the signs that mark the retreat of autumn, or to work a little more slowly and deliberately than normal throughout the day, or to eat by candlelight.  

*End the evening by getting ready for bed early and then telling your young children a story by the light of their lit lantern (rather than reading them a book).