Martinmas Lantern Walk

Before our little ones came along, Martinmas wasn't a part of our lives, but taking part in their first Kindi Lantern Walk under the stars, carrying our lanterns, hearing the story and then singing as we strode along, was truly wonderful! It has now become a family tradition for us to celebrate this special day. We sometimes make new lanterns, and sometimes we use last year's, sometimes we walk as an extended family group, and one year when ill health restricted how far we could go, there were just the two of us and we wandered along the pavement beside our home singing away together!

We had never made a relationship with Martinmas before but have enjoyed enormously learning about it for this blog.

Martinmas is another festival that falls at the end of harvest and the start of the dark winter season. It is celebrated in many countries and in Waldorf schools around the world and is one of the most beautiful festivals. It coincides with other lantern celebrations and traditions at this time of year such as Diwali, which brighten the darker evenings. Martinmas is on November 11th and celebrates the burial of St Martin of Tours (316-397 AD) who devoted much of his life to establishing Christianity in France and became one of her patron saints. Many of you will perhaps know the story - he was most famous for meeting a poor beggar at the city gate, who was shivering in the cold. Martin drew his sword and cut his own cloak in two and gave one half to the beggar. Legend has it that Christ appeared to Martin in a dream the following night dressed in the piece of cloak Martin had cut. Martin's half cloak brought hope and comfort to the beggar. His compassionate gesture is the essence of this festival, acknowledging the light, warmth and gentle kindness that shines in each of us. This light needs to be protected, just as the lights inside our lanterns do, so they don’t blow out, and while only one small, fragile light, each and every one also brings relief to the darkness of winter.

Celebrating Martinmas

At Martinmas after the sun sets, children take their colourful lanterns outside in a magical lantern walk, singing special songs and finishing with sharing warm drinks and wholesome food together.

How to celebrate Martinmas at home

Tell some stories:

A beautiful story which could be told through perhaps a puppet show or simply by being told to listening ears before your lantern walk can be found here: The Golden Lantern: A Story Stephen Spitalny

Make a lantern:

Balloon Lanterns Martinmas

Balloon Lantern

  • A balloon - one per lantern
  • Different coloured tissue paper, cut or torn into pieces
  • White glue
  • Water
  • String, wire or finger knitted wool for the handle
  • Battery-operated tealight (for fire safety) or sand and a beeswax tealight
  • A bowl or cardboard ring to stand the balloon up in as you work (optional but helpful!)
  1. To start, prepare your tissue paper pieces and mix your glue and water “paste”, with a 4 parts glue to 1 part water ratio. Blow up your balloon to the desired size, and then set it upside down in your bowl or stand. Cover about ¾ of the balloon with your glue mixture, then add your first layer of tissue paper. Repeat until you have 2-3 layers of tissue paper covering the balloon.
  2. Wrap a piece of string or wool around width of the balloon about ⅔ of the way up from the bottom between the second and third layers of tissue paper. This forms a stronger edge for when you attach the handle. Add another couple of tissue paper layers making sure to cover the string too.
  3. You could also dip wool or leaves in the glue mixture and add them on top of your tissue paper layers.
  4. Leave the balloon to dry (this may take up to a day). When the tissue paper is completely dry, pop the balloon! It should peel away.
  5. Cut a clean edge around the outer edge of the tissue paper (around 2cm above the string border).
  6. Carefully make two holes either side of the lantern for the handle, just below the string.
  7. Run string, finger knitted wool or wire through the holes, leaving a good length so the candle is away from little fingers and secure for your handle.
  8. Insert your battery-operated tealight or a good covering of sand at the bottom and then carefully sit in your beeswax tealight.
  9. Wait for darkness to illuminate the magic of your tissue paper balloon lantern!

Another very similar option is to take a glass jar and glue the pieces of torn coloured tissue paper to the outside of it. You can glue at random or make pictures and shapes with the tissue paper. Adding a handle can be done in various ways, from pipe cleaners to finger knitted wool; you can even add beads.

The lovely book 'All Year Round' by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling, includes instructions and patterns for three different lanterns, or this site also has a wonderful suggestion for your family lanterns: How to Make Paper Lanterns

Paper Lantern Martinmas Festival

Sing some songs:

Here are our own two favourite Lantern Walk Songs:

I go outside with my lantern: A Lantern Walk Song

I go outside with my lantern, my lantern goes with me.
Above the stars are shining bright, down here on Earth shine we.
The cock does crow, the cat meows, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.
‘Neath heaven's dome till we go home, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.

I go outside with my lantern, my lantern goes with me.
Above the stars are shining bright, down here on Earth shine we.
So shine your light through the still dark night, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom
‘Neath heaven's dome till we go home, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.

Glimmer, lantern, glimmer: A Lantern Walk Song

Glimmer, lantern, glimmer.
Little stars a-shimmer.
Over meadow, moor and dale.
Flitter, flutter, elfin veil.
Pee-wit, pee-wit, tikka-tikka-tik.
Rucoo, rucoo.

Glimmer, lantern, glimmer.
Little stars a-shimmer.
Over rock and stock and stone.
Wandering, skipping, little gnome.
Pee-wit, pee-wit, tikka-tikka-tik.
Rucoo, rucoo.

If you want to learn the tunes, there are wonderful video clips here:

Whichever songs you sing, and wherever your lantern walk takes you, have a very happy Martinmas!