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 held as 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. The traditional lantern crafts, songs, and celebration ideas listed below can be used to create your own 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 every one 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 as a way to carry it with us through the long dark days of winter.
Waldorf Schools, Steiner homeschools, and small communities worldwide hold lantern walks as an integral part of their Martinmas Festivals in the autumn to celebrate the light, connect with the rhythms and cycles of nature, and strengthen community bonds.
Light the Way to Winter with a Fall Lantern Walk
Lantern walks are traditionally held in the fall as a part of community celebrations. In modern times, Waldorf educators continue to 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 is designed to teach children to celebrate the light within and inspire them to share the gifts of their light with humanity in meaningful ways. Lantern walk celebrations are often held as a part of a Martinmas Festival on (or around) November 11, which falls between Michaelmas and the Winter Solstice.
Traditionally the lanterns were carved out of freshly harvested gourds and illuminated with a candle—similar to the Halloween jack-o-lantern—but today are often made 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 2020
In 2020, it is not possible to hold in-person lantern walk festivities in many places. It is, however, important for Waldorf families to 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.
The Story of St. Martin
The story of St. Martin is often 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. Martins 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. 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 other versions of the story, when St. Martin awoke, he found his cloak miraculously restored to wholeness.)
This experience changed St. Martin forever. From that moment forth, he promised to commit to a life of service to humanity, regardless of station. Another lovely version of the story of St. Martin is located on pages 23-28 in The Festival of Stones. Share Chapter 7 “A Festival of Lanterns” and Chapter 8 “Saint Martin’s Light” with your children as a part of your Martinmas celebration.
If the story of St. Martin isn’t for you, share a story of compassion, warmth, and kindness that makes sense for your 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, or Martinmas, occurs on November 11, after Michaelmas and before the Winter Solstice. Also known as the Feast of St. Martin and Martinstag, it is a day traditionally associated with the fall harvest and a day in which people remember and honor St. Martin of Tours.
In fact, some consider Martinmas to be the modern-day predecessor to traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, as it too is a harvest feast of sharing and gratefulness. In the past, big feasts and bonfires were held in honor of St. Martins 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 and Waldorf homeschools across the globe hold Martinmas Festivals that include a fall lantern walk. A lantern walk instills the idea that our light can continue to shine even as the light and warmth of the sun wane. Only now, the light and warmth come more from our hearts, homes, and the fellowship of 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 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 were 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.
My daughter and I have made several lovely luminaries for lantern walks over the years. Waldorf educators invite children to make gorgeous lanterns in a variety of amazing ways. They glow so beautifully on a cold autumn night.
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. 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 paper lanterns for Martinmas.
Instructions to make several beautiful types of luminaries for a lantern walk are listed below. Use your child’s watercolor paintings if you choose to make a paper lantern.
- 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 absolutely gorgeous handmade balloon lantern with toilet paper and real leaves with simple 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.”
- Learn how to make Waldorf paper lanterns with the step by step instructions found in A Child’s Seasonal Treasury, All Year Round, Earthways, The Children’s Year, or Festivals Family and Food.
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 dark night. Similar to the story of St. Martin, there are often a few different translations of the same song, where the words are slightly different, or the songs are sung with a slightly different rhythm or cadence. Sing the lantern song versions that you like best!
The lyrics to several lantern walk songs that you can use on your lantern walk are written below. We have also made a printable with traditional lantern songs that you can download and print. Click the link to grab your copy!
You can find links to videos and audio recordings that make it easy to learn the songs for your lantern walk. A collection of nine Waldorf Martinmas Lantern Walk songs that parents, educators, and community members can listen are found HERE. Another comprehensive collection of lantern songs put together by the Cincinnati Waldorf School are 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 sung 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 sung 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 sung 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 sung 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 sung by Ceilidh-Jo Rowe: Listen HERE.
Don’t forget to grab your copy of the lyrics for each of these traditional Martinmas lantern songs HERE!
Martinmas Lantern Walk Festival
Use the collection 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.