November 11th is Martinmas, or Saint Martin's Day, when schools and communities gather after dark for a lantern walk. I had never heard of it until I started learning about Waldorf, but there is a lot to like about this festival. The very short version of the history is that Martin was a Roman soldier who showed generosity and kindness to a beggar on a very cold night in November. While other people passed by the beggar, Martin stopped and cut his own cloak in two with his sword to clothe the man. That night, Martin had a dream that the beggar was Christ, and so his good deed had been in service to all mankind. The lanterns represent our inner light, and what we have to share with others. It is the beginning of the season of giving, and also reminds us to cherish the light as the darkness of winter sets in.
So, you may be wondering what all this means to a toddler. I kept it very simple with a craft and a poem, and the knowledge in my heart that we are laying the foundation for her bright and beautiful future in this lifestyle we have chosen.
The sunlight now is dwindling,
My little lamp needs kindling,
It's beams shine far in darkest night,
Dear lantern, guide me with your light.