Celebrating Martinmas

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Outdoor autumn scene with crunchy leaves on the ground and a small pumpkin set next to a tree trunk. A wooden cane/stick has a mason jar lantern hanging from it. Another mason jar with a candle is set on the ground.

The eleventh of November is the traditional date of a festival celebrating Martinmas. To some, this may not be a familiar observance as this old European celebration comes from long, long ago, in the Middle Ages.

As the legend goes, a young soldier named Martin passed under an archway in the French city of Amiens discovering a poor, cold beggar resting there. Martin was moved to take his own cape and tear it in half to cover the poor man in an attempt to warm him. Martin had a dream the following night where he saw Christ wearing this same piece of cape.

This spiritual experience inspired Martin to devote the rest of his life to helping all mankind regardless of their station. Saint Martin of Tours is known as the patron saint of beggars, drunkards and outcasts. He is also affectionately known as a friend of the children. 

On the evening of Martinmas, many European countries commemorate with a festival of lanterns symbolizing the light of love and generosity that illuminates darkness and lack. In some countries, the lighted Martinmas gaiety begins at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. 

As a mother, I enjoy welcoming celebrations of all that is good and kind into our family life, including traditions such as Martinmas. The warm, happy lantern walk memories we’ve shared are priceless. It also offers me, as a parent, another opportunity to introduce and inspire the gentle, caring virtues of love and generosity to my children. 

Teach your children about Saint Martin’s devotion to kindness by bringing this custom to life in your own fun, family festival of lanterns. It can be as simple as creating a handle for a paper cup and placing a battery-operated candle inside. Or, tie a wire around a mason jar with a candle inside and attach to a stick. (tutorial for a colorful tissue paper mason jar lantern your child can make) Turn the lights out and march around the kitchen table or bundle up and parade outside in the late evening. As a family, gather together outgrown clothing in good condition, wash and donate to a charitable community organization. 

Be inspired by the goodness of the lessons this festival of lanterns represents and incorporate it into an annual family event celebrating Martinmas.

Looking for more ways to savor these precious days with your child? Golden Days at Home Early Childhood Curriculum offers lesson plans to support parents teaching their preschooler at home. Our November Lesson Plan Bundle includes four weekly lesson plans. Each full, fun lesson plan is inspired by an award-winning picture book. YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S GREATEST TEACHER.


mason jar candle hanging from a wooden cane leaning against a tree trunk. Autumn leaves are on the ground.
Childhood Gem written in black on a white background with a gold star to the left

             Mud Pies and Other Recipes                                           by Marjorie Winslow

This charming little cookbook for dolls offers recipes as well as clever menu planning suggestions for the timeless childhood pastime of mud pie making and other dishes of this sort. As a make-believe cookbook, it supports all types of creative outdoor cooking (and shopping) for stuffed friends, tin soldiers and dolls. The delightful pen and ink illustrations by Erik Blegvad join in an imaginative, delightful experience for parents and children alike.


Janet Nicole Meyer

Janet Nicole Meyer

The founder and author of Golden Days at Home preschool curriculum savors all opportunities to play and travel with her now grown children. She and her husband hike, bike and enjoy living on a stream in Boulder, Colorado with their elderly English Mastiff, Roxy.

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