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.
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…”