Martinmas and the Nature Table…

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On Friday 11th November, we celebrated our annual Martinmas festival.  I meant to write this sooner, but there haven’t been many opportunities lately to sit down and write as much as I would like to. I thought I would share it anyway. Better late than never 🙂

Martinmas is the second autumn festival after Michaelmas Festival. This festival celebrates the life work of St Martin of Tours. Martin was born around 316AD and at the age of 15, he was forced to follow in his fathers footsteps to become a officer in the Roman army. Legend has it that as Martin rode into Amiens one cold icy winter’s night, he spotted a beggar, who was half naked, shivering near the city gates. He took his warm army cloak off and cut it in two with his sword, so that both he and the beggar were clothed in half of it. That night Christ came to him in a dream: He was dressed in the half cloak that Martin had given to the beggar and was surrounded by angels. Christ told the angels “Martin has covered me with this garment”.

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This gave Martin immense courage and faith that he was on the right path. He was baptised and after leaving the army, he spent the rest of his life helping the sick, the needy and the poor and bringing Christianity to areas of France. He was even made a Bishop, despite his protestations. He was undoubtedly a humble man who was guarded by angels and spent his life doing Christ’s work. There is much to say about Martin’s journey. More can be found on St Martin here and in this book.

Below are two books we enjoy reading at Martinmas. Unfortunately they are only in German. I haven’t found any in English thusfar as St Martin is not widely known or celebrated here, only in Waldorf Education, I believe.

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In the wonderful resource All Year Round the inner journey is well explained;

“St Martin recognised the divine spark in the poor man of Amiens and gave it the protection of his own cloak. 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”

Every act of kindness, no matter how small brings light and hope into the world. At this time of year, it is fitting that we donate money or warm winter clothes to homeless charities or those helping the refugees, or we could buy a homeless person a warm drink. Martin recognised that we all have the divine spark in us, every one of us and if we see that, it is easier to love, forgive and reach out to our fellow man. The Buddha spoke of our oneness and how we all suffer from the same human problems – we are all the same essentially, so if we help another being, we are helping the world. This is what I believe – spreading light and goodness is as good for us as it is for the recipients.

We can note that Martin did not give his whole cloak away. We can only help others if we look after ourselves too. ( I think this is particularly important for mothers who are always giving to our families, friends, community…we need to make sure we are well looked after too and nourished). We should not feel impoverished by giving, but enriched in spirit.

Traditionally Martinmas is celebrated with a lantern walk, to bring the light into the darkness, to bring hope into the dark days.

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Since they were little, my daughters and I have gone on lantern walks in our surrounding area in the week leading up to Martinmas. We have always been lucky to have a local park within a short walk.  We sing lantern songs in German and it is a special time. This year it rained a lot in the week before, so we didn’t get to go 😦 We were planning to have friends over for a lantern walk (friends who left Waldorf education a couple of years ago but who still love the festivals). It is our little tradtion to have them over for lantern walking, soup and warm mulled apple juice to warm us up afterwards. Unfortunately we had to cancel that due to rain too!! 😦

Luckily the 11th November was a fine day and we were able to take a lovely lantern walk with my youngest daughter’s class. My eldest daughter’s fourth grade class no longer go for a lantern walks ( too many of the children don’t seem to take it seriously and mess around 😦 ) so my eldest was grateful for the opportunity to join in on this walk as she loves the atmosphere of the festival.

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Parents are very involved in a Steiner (Waldorf|) school: we are very much part of a Community;  from Class contact work to making cakes to raise funds, to helping out at fayres and cleaning the classroom. Every parent had a job to make this lantern walk happen. Glass jars with tealights in them were placed all the way around a local pond to light the path  and a fire was lit outside the village hall to keep us warm afterwards. Parents brought mulled appled juice and  flapjacks for afterwards and we had a wonderful time, singing lantern songs and enjoying the stillness of the night. I don’t have many photos as my camera doesn’t seem to cope well with darkness, but here is my daughter with her lantern 🙂

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Our collection of homemade lanterns has been growing over the years. Here are some of them that we made more recently. I keep fantasising about more intricate lanterns – one day….They all look so beautiful with a little candle shining hopefully in them.

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I change my nature table in November to reflect the changes in nature. The leaves are all on the ground – almost – and I have gnomes sweeping them underground and I have changed the cloths to purple to create a darker feeling as the nights draw in ever more.

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Gnomes are in their cave looking after crystals, there are two gnomes warming themselves by the fire outside the cave and everywhere the gnomes are working hard to sweep away autumn leaves with their little lanterns at the ready for when it gets dark early.

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Here are two little gnomes going for a lantern walk. I made them a couple of years ago using instructions found here.

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My youngest sat a little gnome on top of our toadstool house 🙂

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Here is the gnomes cave. I couldn’t capture it properly on camera. The fairy lights are red in the lanterns and in the cave and there are some big crystals in there.

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More gnomes on the mantlepiece.

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And finally another nature table in our dining area. I made the little toadstools in the cyclamen by placing beeswax in limpet shells and pushing squewers into them. They are so easy to make and good fun.

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As this season draws to an end and Advent begins. we will gather all our autumn leaves, dried acorns and conkers together for our  “gnomes bonfire”. I found the idea in All Year Round and we love it. I will share photos no doubt. It clears a space for new beginnings and the quiet time of reflection that is Advent.

I love changing the Nature Table to reflect the seasons and festivals. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Follow your heart 🙂

3 thoughts on “Martinmas and the Nature Table…

  1. How sweet those little lantern-bearing gnomes are! You are right about only giving half of our cloaks. I have found myself feeling very tired this year, for the first time, and I’m trying to be mindful of that. I’m trying to shift our nature table(s) to a more Martinmas mood, as well, and letting go of the colorful fanfare of Autumn.

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  2. Beautiful 🙂 we are Waldorf home educating with our little ones, our eldest started Kindi this Autumn and this year was our first Martinmas celebration. We made jar lanterns and did a little lantern walk with some songs and we also had a gnomes bonfire celebration (same idea from All Year Round 😉 )

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