Use this list of lantern walk traditions, rituals, and celebration ideas to create your own lantern walk festival.
A fall lantern walk is a traditional autumn celebration that happens when the days get shorter and the nights grow longer in the days leading up to the Winter Solstice. It is a celebration that inspires a connection to the rhythms of nature, community, and the light within. Use the traditional lantern crafts, songs, and celebration ideas listed below to create a lantern festival at home or in your community.
The Lantern Walk is a ritual designed to remind children that they are the light in the darkness, and this spark of life is within each of us. On the night of the lantern walk, we light our luminaries and sing lantern songs to bring the light deep into our hearts and carry it with us through the long dark days of winter.
Waldorf and Steiner Schools, homeschoolers, and small communities worldwide hold lantern walks as an integral part of their autumn festivals (Martinmas) to celebrate the light, connect with the rhythms and cycles of nature, and strengthen community bonds.
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Light the Way to Winter with a Fall Lantern Walk
Traditionally, lantern walks are held in the fall as a part of community celebrations. In modern times, Waldorf educators celebrate festivals throughout the year to help connect children with the cycles of nature and establish rhythms that strengthen their bonds with the natural world.
A Lantern Walk is a fall tradition in Waldorf education that teaches children to celebrate the light within and inspires them to share the gifts of their “light” with humanity in meaningful ways. Lantern walk celebrations often occur as a part of a Martinmas Festival on (or around) November 11, which falls between Michaelmas and the Winter Solstice.
In the past, lanterns were carved out of freshly harvested gourds and illuminated with a candle—similar to the Halloween jack-o-lantern—but today, most people make fall lanterns with paper or jars. Have a look at the list of lantern craft ideas below to learn how to make your own.
Fall Lantern Walk 2022
In 2022, it is uncertain how many communities will hold lantern walks as health mandates evolve in different areas worldwide. It is, however, recommended that Waldorf families (and other communities) honor this festival in whatever way possible. If you can not make a new lantern, use an old one, and head out on a walk into the darkness–if only in your backyard– singing your favorite lantern songs. We even have a printable with lantern song lyrics available HERE that you can use.
The Story of St. Martin
The story of St. Martin is shared with children as a part of Waldorf Martinmas Festivities. Steiner educators are trained to use the art of storytelling and metaphor in their teachings, and the story of St. Martin’s cloak is no exception. It is told to children as a reminder to share with those in need, especially on the darkest days.
According to legend, St. Martin came across a poor beggar huddled in an archway that was freezing to death. He was shivering with cold in the dead of night with barely a thread to clothe him. So St. Martin drew his sword, cut his cloak in two, and covered the beggar with half of it as a gesture of kindness.
That night, Martin had a dream in which a familiar man appeared and was wearing half of the cloak that Martin had given to the poor beggar. Martin recognized the light of the Divine looking back at him, wearing the other half of his cape. (In different versions of the story, when St. Martin awoke, he found his cloak miraculously restored to wholeness.)
This experience changed St. Martin forever. He promised to commit to a life of service to humanity from that moment forth, regardless of station. Another lovely version of the story of St. Martin is on pages 23-28 in The Festival of Stones. We recommend sharing Chapter 7, “A Festival of Lanterns,” and Chapter 8, “Saint Martin’s Light,” with your children as a part of your Martinmas celebration.
And, if the story of St. Martin isn’t for you and your children, share a story of compassion, warmth, and kindness that makes sense for your students, family, and community as a part of your lantern walk celebration.
The Festival of Martinmas
There are several festivals celebrated throughout the year in Waldorf education. St. Martin’s Day (Martinmas) occurs on November 11, after Michaelmas and before the Winter Solstice. Also known as the Feast of St. Martin and Martinstag, it is traditionally associated with the fall harvest and a day in which people remember and honor St. Martin of Tours.
Some consider Martinmas the modern-day predecessor to traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, as it is a harvest feast of sharing and gratefulness. In the past, big dinners and bonfires occurred in celebration to honor St. Martin’s Day.
Martinmas is a celebration of hope, and kindness and a reminder to bring warmth and light to those in need. As we journey deeper into the darkest time of the year, St. Martin’s Day and the story of St. Martin reminds us that we must kindle the warmth and light that resides within our hearts and share it with the world.
Waldorf Lantern Walk Festival
Steiner Schools, Waldorf homeschools, and other nature-based communities across the globe hold a Martinmas Festival that includes a fall lantern walk. A lantern walk symbolically affirms that our light can continue to shine even as the light and warmth of the sun wane. Only now, the light will come more from our hearts, homes, and the fellowship of our family and friends.
Children are encouraged to hold a meditative reverence in their hearts as they venture out into the night carrying glowing handmade lanterns and singing songs in celebration of the divine light that connects each one of us.
The Martinmas celebration is shared with children to inspire them to ask deep, probing questions of themselves, as it also calls upon them to live a life of service to humanity and the greater good. Learn more about St. Martins Day and Martinmas celebrations in Waldorf education HERE.
Lantern Craft Ideas
Luminaries for a lantern walk are traditionally made by carving gourds and squash. Modern-day Martinmas lanterns are made with paper or jars and are often hung on a stick to make it easier for children to walk with them.
Over the years, my daughter and I have made several lovely luminaries for lantern walks. Waldorf educators invite children to make gorgeous lanterns in various unique ways. They glow so beautifully on a cold autumn night. In the photograph below, you can see a few of our fall lantern walk luminaries.
How to Make Lanterns for a Lantern Walk Festival
We learned how to make the lanterns pictured in this article with the help of a few great books and some of my daughter’s Waldorf teachers. First, Waldorf educators help children fold their wet-on-wet watercolor paintings into lanterns. Next, they show them how to cut shapes and cover them inside with kite paper to make gorgeous lanterns for Martinmas.
Instructions to make several beautiful luminaries for a lantern walk are listed below. We encourage you to use your child’s watercolor paintings if you choose to make a paper lantern. Make autumn leaf crowns to adorn children’s heads as they head out into the night for even more fun!
- Use real fall leaves, tissue paper, and a large clear mason jar to make leaf lanterns. The autumn leaves can be cut in the shape of hearts as described or left whole. Next, put a mason jar handle on it, and grab a stick that will hold it safe and sound to make it easy to carry on a lantern walk. Or, fashion your own hanger with wire, cord, or yarn.
- Learn how to make paper mache lanterns with a balloon and tissue paper with THESE simple instructions.
- Try this gorgeous handmade balloon lantern with toilet paper and real leaves with a simple craft you can make with THIS video tutorial by Whizzy Crafts.
- Watch this VIDEO to make Martinmas lanterns with mason jars and tissue paper, complete with a lovely finger-knit handle. Towards the end, you can see how the lantern looks when lit and hear Sarah sing, “I Go With My Bright Little Lantern.”
Or, learn how to make Waldorf paper lanterns with the step-by-step instructions found within the pages of the beautiful books on the list below:
Related: Turkey Leaf Lanterns
Traditional Lantern Songs for a Lantern Walk
Several songs are traditionally sung as children walk with their lanterns spiraling into the deep night. Similar to the story of St. Martin, there are often a few different translations of the same song, where the words are slightly changed or the songs have a somewhat different rhythm or cadence. Sing the lantern song versions that you like best!
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Here are the lyrics to several lantern walk songs you can use on your autumn lantern walk. We have also made a printable with traditional lantern songs that you can download and print. Grab your copy of the lyrics for each of the traditional Martinmas lantern songs on this list HERE—> Traditional Lantern Walk Songs.
You can find links to videos and audio recordings that make it easy to learn the songs for your lantern walk. For example, HERE is a collection of nine Waldorf Martinmas Lantern Walk songs that parents, educators, and community members can listen to and memorize. Another comprehensive collection of lantern songs by the Cincinnati Waldorf School is listed HERE.
The Lantern Song The sunlight fast is dwindling, My little lamp needs kindling. Its beam shines far in darkest night. Dear lantern guard me With your light.
The Lantern Song by the Cincinnati Waldorf School: Listen HERE.
Glimmer, Lantern, Glimmer 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.
Glimmer Lantern Glimmer by Saltwater Waldorf School: Listen HERE.
High and Blue the Sky High and blue the sky, trees are very tall; wild geese flying seem so small. See, on silent wings in flocks they go never parting from a single row. We go through the land, like a wild gees band; brothers/sisters in one flight are we. Clear and dark the night, stars are very bright; lanterns shining seem so small See, in single file we walk along, singing joyfully our lantern song. We go through the land, like a wild gees band: brothers/sisters of one light are we.
High and Blue the Sky by Lorraine Nelson Wolf: Listen HERE.
I'm Walking With My Lantern I’m walking with my lantern, my lantern walks 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. My light goes out, we’re going home, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom. I’m walking with my lantern, my lantern walks 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. My light goes out, we’re going home, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.
I Walk With My Little Lantern, by Lorraine Nelson Wolf: Listen HERE.
Or, I Go With My Little Lantern I go with my bright little lantern, my lantern is going with me. In heaven the stars are shining, on earth shines my lantern with me, The cock does crow, the cat miaows, Lantern shines, la bimba- labamba-labim.
I Go With My Little Lantern, by Ceilidh-Jo Rowe: Listen HERE.
Grab your copy of the lyrics for these traditional Martinmas lantern songs HERE—> Traditional Lantern Walk Songs.
Martinmas Lantern Walk Festival
Use the list of celebration ideas gathered here to create a lantern walk festival in your home, school, or community this Autumn. You may also be interested to learn more about the Fall Equinox. Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE.
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