Martinmas Lanterns :: Martinmas Celebration
Children and their families come together the world over in Waldorf communities to celebrate Martinmas with a lantern walk under the starry night sky on November 11th each year. This tradition originated in Europe and has continued here in the US and been taken up around the world.
We meet just after sundown at the edge of a wood where there are no street lights and no house lights. We walk together through the woods singing lantern and Martinmas songs. At a certain point where there is a clearing in the woods, we crouch around for a Martinmas story, often the story of the little boy who makes a house for a spark of Father Son’s light. If we are lucky, we wind our walk to end up around a bonfire at the lake’s edge or in the backyard, a fire that has been started and tended for us while we are in the woods. (I am grateful to the parents and teens who have made this happen for us over the years.)We then move inside the house where we have soup and bread and warm apple cider and if we are lucky, pies. We share a meal in the light of the lanterns around a large table or spread about the room in a circle within a circle and then we say goodnight and everyone goes home, full of fresh air, good food, good company and the experience of carrying the light into dark places.
The Martinmas lantern is a simple and delightful autumn project for children of all ages. We began with the smaller version of the mason jar lanterns we had used at school. I chose the smaller mason jars because I was working with very young children and they were not as large and heavy for little hands to grasp and not as cumbersome to carry as the large jars. I added the golden stars too. Later on we tried the balloons and had great fun with them, some years adding leaves between the layers.
- Tissue paper, soft autumnal colors (red, orange, pink, yellow)
- Glue, thinned with water
- Paint brush dedicated to use with glue (this will wreck them for use with paint)
- Jars (we use old Ball and Mason canning jars, jars from pickles, salsa, little ones for wee little children ) or balloons, blow them up first and set balloon in a bowl to stabilize it
- Place tissue in center of table
- “Paint” jar or balloon with glue
- Apply the tissue to the jar or balloon
- “Paint” over tissue very gently with more glue
- Add more tissue
- When it has enough color, let it dry (this can take up to 24 hours so allow plenty of time)
- To seal them: spray them with hairspray or Modge Podge
- If using a ballon, pop the balloon and cut out an opening in which to place the candle on each side of the top
- Punch a hole in the balloon and gently thread yarn through to make a handle or use a light wire.
- Attack wire to rim of jar and tighten, form handles with floral wire (it’s coated and gentle on hands)
- Drip some beeswax from a burning candle to the base to stick the candle in (tea or votive candle, beeswax candles give off a beautiful scent)
Remember to bring a long handled lighter capable of lighting the candle wicks in the wind and some extra candles, especially if you use tea candles.
Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie is the Editor and Publisher of The Wonder of Childhood and has spent the past fifteen years with one of her own children in early childhood (under seven years of age.) She was blessed with a wondrous, rhythmic and outdoor childhood on the coast of Maine. Lisa has worked with children and their families for the past twenty two years, initially as a homebirth midwife. Lisa’s home based program The Children’s Garden began twelve years ago on a remote tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. Lisa’s current focus is on supporting parents of very young children and exploring the needs of boys in relationship to the Waldorf curriculum and ways of implementing support for those needs within the Waldorf curriculum. She lives with her family in Vermont. Lisa offers a Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through the Year homeschooling curriculum and parenting support and blogs at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life. She also hosts a discussion groups for parents of young children here. Find her on FaceBook here.
A little side note on the glue for the balloon lanterns. We discovered by trial and error that only Elmer’s brand glue worked; the generic white glue just did not work once thinned!
Thank for pointing this out. I guess we must have always used Elmer’s glue and never had the question raised if other types of glue also work.
Could you show us a photo of the balloon with candles mounted? I am not visualizing where the candle(s) go.