All cultures throughout history have engaged in rituals that reflect the rhythms of nature marking significant transitions for individuals or groups. In Waldorf schools around the world, rhythm – daily, weekly, yearly – permeates school life. The purpose of the school´s `festival life´ is to nourish the soul of the individual and bring the community together. Some of our festivals are small events — the teacher and their class alone. Others festivals are for our school families, while others still are meant to include our broader community and neighbors.
As the daylight begins to wane and we prepare for the long winter nights ahead, we look inward for light and purpose. Each November we celebrate Martinmas, a festival of inner light in the outer darkness of the approaching winter. St Martin was a soldier in Rome in the 4th century. Legend says that one wintry night he met a poor beggar, half-naked and freezing. Martin removed the heavy military cloak from his shoulders and, drawing his sword, cut it in two, and gave half to the beggar. Martin saw in the eyes of this man, the light of the Divine which we each carry within us. Celebrating Martinmas serves as a reminder that each of us has a divine spark that we must ferry out into the world and share with others. According to old customs at this time, as the days become shorter and the stars appear earlier, children would walk with lanterns through the streets singing.
On November 6th , the children and parents of Tacoma Waldorf will participate in a Lantern Walk. The older children prepare for Lantern Walk with legends of St. Martin. The young children focus on kindness, as it is the heart of this festival. We all greatly anticipate the making of the lanterns, the learning of the lanterns songs, and being under the stars together.
You can extend the beauty of this festival into your home by choosing this time of year to gather warm items to give to those in need. You may also prepare a simple meal on Martinmas Eve of baked potato, or any food that can be cut in half. At the start of the meal, divide your food and pass half to your neighbor. This sharing allows us to savor the kindness in us all.