Martinmas – A Path to our Inner Light

Sarah Wiberg (Meadowbrook Parent Child Teacher) and Nancy St. Vincent (Early Childhood Class Teacher) describe Martinmas and the introspection encouraged through the fall festivals of a Waldorf School. 

inner light, martinmas, lantern walk

Photo Credit: Seth Jacobson Photography

Autumn is a time to reflect on our inner selves

As the leaves change and the world puts on a beautiful autumnal cloak of orange, red, and yellow, we are reminded that winter is coming.  There is much we do to prepare for winter. We may gather firewood, put our gardens to rest or finish canning the bounty of the harvest.  But this time of year, with its shorter days and longer nights, not only prompts us to complete the familiar external preparations, but can also be a time of inner preparation.

Autumn is a time to reflect on our inner selves, to find the inner light that will carry us through this time of darkness. It can be a time to look forward to, with its opportunity to know ourselves in a deeper way.  Waldorf schools mark this season of inner searching with three fall festivals to help guide us on this path of introspection.  In September, we celebrate Michaelmas and St. Michael urges us to battle with courage to face and vanquish our “dragons”.  In early November, we celebrate Martinmas and observe St. Martin’s compassion for others.  In December, St. Nicholas brings the gifts of wisdom, reflection, and review upon the events of the year.  These three figures model strength in the qualities of willing, feeling and thinking.

The festival of Martinmas asks us as striving adults to bring forth our inner light and share it with those around us.

At the festival of Martinmas we hear the story of St. Martin, a Roman soldier who lived in the fourth century.  As St. Martin approached the city gates at Amiens, he came upon a poor beggar who was shivering with cold.  St. Martin, who lived in the utmost of simplicity himself and had nothing to give the beggar, drew his sword and cut his own cloak in two and offered half to the beggar.  The following night, Christ appeared to St. Martin in a dream wearing the half-cloak he had given and said, “Martin has covered me with this garment.”

With St. Martin’s example, Martinmas encourages us to meet each other with a compassionate, giving heart.  It asks us as striving adults to bring forth our inner light and share it with those around us.

The Martinmas lantern walk lights this path. 

At Meadowbrook Waldorf School, we celebrate this festival with the Martinmas Lantern Walk.  We begin the week before with the children in Kindergarten, First, and Second Grades making lanterns in school.  On the night of the Martinmas celebration, the children and parents arrive at school to see a marionette performance of Spindlewood, the story of a girl who has an encounter with Mother Earth as she is preparing for winter.  This story depicts the outer world of earth going to sleep while the inner world is coming alive.  Following the performance, the children and families walk with their class through the forest surrounding the school singing songs of light.  Carrying the lanterns they have made, it is like witnessing many beautiful stars joyfully winding a the path through the woods.  Afterward, the children and families leave in a mood of quiet reverence, carrying their light out into the world.

“I walk with my little lantern, my lantern, myself and I.

Up yonder bright little stars shine, down here were stars to the sky.

The new moon shines, the cat meows…

La bimmel, la bummel, la boom…”




Michaelmas: Contemplating Dragons


The children have been practicing this week for our Michaelmas celebration.  The pageant is the same every year and each class plays a pivotal role in the story.

There are the littlest First Grade Gnomes and energetic Second Grade Meteors.


Third Grade portrays the elements, while the noble Fourth Grade contains the knights and St.  Michael.












The hardworking Fifth Graders are the farmers and peasants, while the Sixth Grade gives life to the fearsome and fun dragon.


Finally, our Middle Schoolers provide the stirring music for the morning.











With our senses full of the sights and sounds (and soup) of Michaelmas, it is easy to overlook the deeper meaning this festival holds within a Waldorf school.

Kristina Boving, Meadowbrook Grade 5 Class Teacher and Trustee of the Board, describes the introspective side of this exuberant celebration:

In Waldorf Education, we believe strongly in working with the influences of the natural world, noticing and celebrating the changes in the seasons. Now that fall is upon us, teachers and students are preparing for the festival of Michaelmas, which recognizes the figure of St. Michael. Little noted in modern times, Michael was a powerful figure in days of yore. Better known to us today is Michael’s association with St. George, the patron saint of England, as he fights the dragon.

This powerful image of Michael and his battle against a fearful dragon resonates with the autumn season on many levels. In summer, we are more active, diving into the great outdoors, and losing ourselves in the joy and revelry of long, warm days. Our part of the earth seems to be in a state of dreamy bliss. As fall approaches, and days grow cooler and shorter, nature starts to contract and settle in for a period of dormancy. We are influenced by this change as well. We too are beckoned to a more contemplative mode of being. Our power of thinking can grow clearer and we can become more self-aware, if we take the time to bring our thoughts to consciousness. This is the time to gather our forces to resist falling in too strongly with nature’s cycle of decay and death during the autumn and winter. This is the time to take our outer perceptions and draw them inward to a sustaining, and hope-giving inner experience. This is the time of year known in the Middle Ages as “vita contemplativa” as opposed to summer’s “vita activa”. Michael’s fight for goodness and beauty, and the hope that it brings us, can sustain us through this season.

It takes a strong will to focus on our inner lives, especially during the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. The image of Michael taming the dragon can be a guide for us, helping us re-focus on the essential, giving us courage to overcome fear and despair during the darkening days of autumn.

Saint Nicholas Day in a Waldorf School

Saint Nicholas Day at Meadowbrook Waldorf School

shoes Saint Nicholas

The children in the lower grades were busy yesterday tidying their rooms and placing their shoes out neatly in anticipation for a visit from Saint Nicholas.  This morning those eager boys and girls found treasures of clementines and small shells in their shoes waiting for them, sometimes with a hint of glitter left behind from their secret visitor.

Who is Saint Nicholas?

Today the children celebrate Saint Nicholas Day.  Saint Nicholas was a bishop born in the 4th century. He was known for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas.  Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers.* Saint Nicholas day is celebrated throughout Europe and is honored by Waldorf schools and Waldorf inspired homes and homeschoolers as well.

Legends of Saint Nicholas

One of the most popular stories of St Nicholas tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas.**

Saint Nicholas Felted

Our German teacher shares this poem about Sankt Nikolaus translated into English.

Knecht Ruprecht – Theodor Storm

From out of the forest I now appear, to proclaim that Christmastide is here!
For at the top of every tree are golden lights for all to see;
and there from Heaven’s gate on high I saw our Christ-child in the sky.

And in among the darkened trees, a loud voice it was that called to me:
‘Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow’ it cried, ‘hurry now, make haste, don’t hide!
All the candles have now been lit – Heaven’s gate has opened wide!

Both hong and old should snow have rest away from cares and daily stress;
and when tomorrow to earth I fly “It’s Christmas again!” will be the cry.’

And then I said: ‘O Lord so dear. My journey’s end is now quite near; 
but to this town I’ve still to go, Where the children are good, I know.’

‘But have you then that great sack?’
‘I have’ I said, ‘it’s on my back.
For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts for God-fearing children are a must.’

‘And is that cane there by your side?’ 
The cane’s there too,’ I did reply;
but only for those, those naughty ones, who have it applied to their backsides.’
The Christ-child spoke: ‘Then that’s all right! My loyal servant, go with God this night!’

From out of the forest I now appear; To proclaim that Christmastide is here!
Now speak, what is there here to be had?
Are there good children, are there bad?


Holiday Faire: November 17th & 18th, 2012

Monica Rodgers is a Waldorf graduate and mother of two. Now a Meadowbrook parent she volunteers her considerable talents to helping form our annual Holiday Faire.

Each year, our Meadowbrook Waldorf School community comes together to design and plan our traditional Holiday Faire. It is an event unlike any other in the area, and we have watched it grow each year in attendance as visitors come from all over the tri-state area and beyond to celebrate this special time.

As winter approaches cultures and religious traditions around the world celebrate this change of seasons with festivals of light.  This year our Holiday Faire will honor the light that each of us carries within, the light that guides and inspires us.  Our intention is that the warmth and light of the season touches you and all those you love and cherish.

We hope you will come and celebrate with us – and bring your family and friends!

November 17th:  Adults only evening; join us from 6:00 PM- 9:00 PM. Bring a new friend to our community and receive our coveted holiday “swag bag” put together for our first fifty guests and includes discounts, gift cards, and prizes from area businesses.  The evening will be a shoppers’ paradise, come and enjoy a bonfire, music, and other festivities.  Participate in our live auction and bid on items that will knock your socks off!

November 18th: Family day; any and all can attend a day filled with music, shopping, crafts, events, performances and natural foods. Open from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Some of the reasons you should join us this year:

  • This year’s theme is “Guiding Light” as we remember the warmth and light that this season brings to our hearts and homes.  Find beautiful crafts,  activities, performances, and unique gifts that portray this wonderful inspiration.  Our beautiful decorated campus will “light” your up your hearts and bring a smile to your faces.

  • Choose from an unbelievable assortment of gifts and products, with handmade items crafted by individuals in our own community.  These beautiful, timeless, and quality gifts are things you just can’t find anywhere else and they make a long lasting impression on those who receive them. Our school store will offer finely crafted European toys and delicacies to fill your stockings and deck your tree or table.  We hand-pick items that are made by quality artisans from around the world, including housewares, clothing, ornaments, and other fineries. Follow our board on Pinterest to get a visual sampling of our magnificent offerings, and don’t forget to “Friend” us on Facebook.  

  • This year we will add a new aspect to your shopping experience.  In addition to our ever popular school store and consignment section will be a new section of vintage accessories and gently used  wooden toys. This is a great selection of gifts for that person in your life who might just appreciate a piece of history by way of a vintage hat, piece of jewelry, wooden toy, or a fun handbag or top. This section is a great addition for the hard to buy “tween” or teen in your life, the antique collector, or super funky fresh individual who can appreciate the up-cycled nature of this type of gift. This section will stand along side an expanded collection of “dress up” clothing for kids and we’ll have a large dress up box so that you can consider adding to your dress up collection at home. Fairies, and pirates – eat your heart out!


  • Children and grown-ups alike love our ever popular Gnome Cave and our raved about Marionette Performances put on by our talented educators.  The  Ladies of the Rolling Pin  will also be in attendance and you won’t want to miss their fun singing and dancing.  We’ll invite you to dip your own candles and try your hand at some woodworking crafts so plan on bringing the kids for some family crafts and  don’t forget to stop so that the little ones can ride the ponies. Oh, and don’t forget the Pocket Lady as she roams among the children to offer treasures in exchange for tickets. She’s a magical being who always adds to the wonder of the experience.
  • Another long awaited addition to our Holiday Faire this year is an Auction that will be filled with products and services that our visitors can bid on. Join us in the excitement that comes with the possibility of placing the winning bid for more than fifty amazing items,  services, vacations, and gifts.

  •  If you would like to learn more about Waldorf Education and what it might have to offer for your own family,  you can visit with our education experts. Parent volunteers are also on hand to give insight into how the Waldorf experience has enriched the lives of their families and children.  Look for our Holiday Gift Guide when you arrive to find the room where we’ll be available to answer questions or demonstrate way’s in which our approach might differ from mainstream educational choices.

  • We promise if you join us you will go home with a full heart, and hopefully a sack filled with unique and inspiring holiday gifts for your friends, family, children, and grandchildren.

Brands include: Kathe Kruz, Haba, Grimms, Selecta, Ostheimer, Moleskine, Quiver, Red Chair Studio Designs, Peter Zuerner, Om’s by Miquette, Seedling, Kiddo, Bloc, Baby Legs, etc….

Gift ideas include: Marble runs, dolls, blocks, stilts, board games, accessories, jewelry, dress up, vintage, kitchen play, puppets, science kits, nature kits, sewing kits, collectibles, felt, looms, musical instruments, scarves, cutting boards, stocking stuffers, candles, ethnic gifts, blankets, linens, hand bags, hair accessories, home decor, card games, luminaries, beads, art supplies, crafts, clay, nativities, stockings, ornaments, hats, mittens, carvings, and much, much, much more! 

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