Monday, November 11, 2013

Celebrating Martinmas or St. Martin's Day

This past Monday we celebrated Martinmas - a the holiday that occurs between Michaelmas and Christmas on November 11th.

Who is St. Martin?

Martinmas celebrates the selfless giving impulse exemplified by St. Martin of Tours, a soldier in the Roman army.

One day in November he rose early in the morning and rode from his simple room into the city of Amiens, Gaul. Frigid rain pelted against his face and it was so dark a lantern barely lit his path.

Suddenly, his horse stopped at the city gates. A poorly-clad beggar stood beside the path with his hands stretched out asking for help. But St. Martin had nothing to give the beggar. In spite of his high position in the army, he lived in poverty, only serving the poor, the sick and those in need of consolation.

But St. Martin's compassionate heart was inventive. Swinging his warm red soldiers' cloak off his back, he cut it in half and gave one half to the beggar.

That night he had a dream in which Christ appeared dressed in the half cloak and said, "Today you have shared your cloak with me, from now on you are to be called St. Martin."

After leaving the Roman army, St. Martin became a monk and founded several monasteries that served the sick and poor.

Clothing Donation

St. Martin is best known for his act of kindness towards a poor beggar he encountered who was freezing in the winter cold. Martin used his sword to cut his own cloud in two pieces, giving one to the beggar. This act of compassion gave the beggar hope and comfort.

City of the Lakes Waldorf School wrote, "Martin...become patron saint of beggars and outcasts. He was known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature and his ability to bring warmth and light to those in need. As we journey into the darkest time of the year, it is increasingly important for each of us to kindle warmth and light in our hearts. Martin’s cloak can remind us to share with those in need."

Olivia and Sophia with clothing donations.

Keeping his spirit in mind, we made a donation to the local thrift shop of a winter coat, several pairs of boots, and some warm clothes. 

St. Martin's Bags

I filled the bags that I made with a tangerine, dried apple slices, and a variety of mixed nuts (peanuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, and honey-sugared almonds). 

St. Martin's Bags in the middle of the table.

They were on the table in the morning for everyone to open and enjoy during the day.

Olivia with her St. Martin's Bag.


The traditional symbol for the Martinmas holiday is the lantern. The lantern is the symbol of our own light which we can shine on a dark world. In many Waldorf schools, there is an annual lantern walk or procession accompanied by singing and/or saying of verses. This also can be done at home.

Lanterns on the nature table.

Although we didn't do this, we have plenty of types of lanterns that we have made throughout the years to light at home.

The authors of the book All Year Round wrote: “When we make a paper lantern, we, too, may feel that we are giving protection to our own little “flame” that was beginning to shine at Michaelmas, so that we may carry it safely through the dark world. It may only be a small and fragile light- but every light brings relief to the darkness.”

Lantern Verses

Although we didn't go on a lantern walk this year, there are some verses that I found that are used when children go on walks. One is:

I go outside with my lantern,
my lantern goes outside with me.
Above the stars shine so brightly,
down here on the earth shine we.

Another is:

The sunlight now is dwindling.
My little lamp needs kindling.
Its beams shine far in darkest night,
Dear lantern, guard me with your light.

A Martinmas Meal

A suggestion that I read about for a Martinmas meal was to make a simple one that includes a bread roll, baked potato, or any other food which can be cut in half. At the start of the meal, divide your food and pass half to the neighbor on the left.

Martinmas dinner.

Since the goose is another symbol associated with St. Martin's Day, some families who celebrate the holiday serve goose. Others choose poultry - like chicken. So, I roasted an organic, free-range chicken and served it with dressing and gravy.

Another Story for Younger Children

There is a story that is in Season’s of Joy Martinmas book that would be good to tell to younger children:

Once, so long ago that we’ve forgotten the exact date, there lived a man named Martin.

Martin’s father had sent him off to serve in the army, believing that this would make his son strong and brave and true. And Martin, being a dutiful son, obeyed.

One blustery cold night Martin road on his horse into the town of Amiens in France. Cold though it was, he was comfortable in his warm red cloak. That is, he was until he saw a man huddled on the ground, wearing clothes that were more holes than cloth. The man begged through blue lips for any sort of assistance, but the other soldiers passed him by, laughing with scorn. Martin’s heart was moved to pity, and when he saw the beggar he drew his sword.

The man shrank back in fear, but Martin only used the sword to rend his cloak in two. Giving it to the poor man, Martin remounted his horse and rode off before the man could gather his wits about him to say thank you.

That night, Martin had a dream.

In the dream, Martin once again saw the poor cold man in the streets. He watched himself slice through his cloak with the sword and give half to the man. But this time, there was a third person present. And that person was Christ.

And when Martin looked closely, he not only saw Christ standing next to him, but saw that the poor beggar also had the face of Christ. And when he looked up again, he saw that Christ was wearing half of his red warm cloak.

And then Christ spoke to Martin.

“What you have done for this poor man, you have done also for me.”

And so Martin went forth, forever changed by his actions and his dreams, dedicating his life to Christ and doing good for those around him.

1 comment:

Rita said...

Now that warms my heart! Loved this post! :)