Time of Lanterns


This time of Halloween/All Saints Day/All Souls Day and leading into Martinmas leads me to think about light and lanterns.  There is a passage from the book “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke that I like regarding “Lantern Time”:

“Two lantern festivals mark this time.  From the Celtic tradition there is Halloween on October 31, and from Continental Europe we have Martinmas on November 11.  Halloween is connected with the earth, and its turnip or pumpkin lanterns are made of fruits from the ground.  Martinmas commemorates a human deed of sharing, and its paper lanterns are entirely made by human hand.  As the outer light of day diminishes, there is first a kind of afterglow of e earth – the turnip or pumpkin lanterns.  Then there is the human spark of kindness we see in the paper lanterns of Martinmas.  The light is gradually transformed from the outer light of the sun in summer to the internal spirit light of Advent and Christmas.”

This is a wonderful time of year to think about any changes in rhythm that you want to make as the days grow shorter, the nights longer and colder.  It is also a wonderful time to think about bringing light into your home.  I know Waldorf teachers who light lanterns whilst the children play and keep lanterns up in the school room until the light of Advent comes.

Outside, one can work in tidying the garden, caring for the birds and other small creatures, and planting flower bulbs for spring.

I would love to hear what you are planning for this time of year.



12 thoughts on “Time of Lanterns

  1. What a lovely transition from Halloween to Christmas this makes. From Physical to Soul to Spirit, with each of these festivals/holidays. I have also found it most appropriate to focus on the lantern & light aspect of Halloween for my little ones. My older son is starting to question the darker side- why ghosts, witches, vampires? He asks. I’d like to know your input on how to handle a bit of this darker side with him. He is still only 7 1/2 and relatively sheltered from large scale media on the subject but much more exposed than he was last year because he is in his first year of public school for 2nd grade.

    We have also started lighting more candles & brought out lanterns. I have a big disagreement with the Thanksgiving holiday so we have chosen in the last couple years to incorporate it into a month plus long focus & celebration of light & nourishment in relation to food & family. Thanksgiving is now just an extension of Martinmas for us at home. We do some service for the community, make new lanterns, bake family recipes & keep a Gratitude tree.

    Then it leads simply into Advent where our focus on light continues & moves into humanity & the birth of Jesus. We keep it simple with changes & additions to decoration, homemade gifts of time & talent, and daily reading of The Light in the Lantern by Georg Dreissig with our Advent candles.

    We keep our festival outings to a minimum all through these holidays because I find it helps to maintain our focus on the soul spirit aspects for myself & the will aspect that works upon my children’s souls. We still need a lot of outdoor time & that’s just not possible if we try to pack in too many outings.
    Well that was a lot more than planned! Hopefully it helps some one out with their holiday plans 🙂

  2. I am thinking about how to keep this season of light alive for my high school and college daughters. We have moved to a potluck party with bonfire, lanterns, and a food pantry collection. Very fun, but what to do to gently remind my daughter who is off at college??

    • Is your daughter close enough to be home for a celebration of some sort? Or something where she can include some friends – perhaps those who don’t have family close? Most dorms don’t allow open flame candles, bit perhaps a care package including some nice flickering flameless candles. One of my most cherished care packages in college was a huge envelope full of pressed fall leaves from my dad. I was far away from fall weather and they were a comforting reminder of our family’s traditions.

    • Nice thoughts! She came home from fall break and felted a bunch of acorns to take back. Maybe I could mail her one of our mason jar/tissue paper lanterns and an electric candle…just for a little reminder.

  3. Our family LOVES this season as well. We started the season of light this year by celebrating Diwali! On Halloween, we discussed the light in the jack-o-lanterns. Yesterday, we celebrated my son’s birthday with his friends by making lanterns in preparation for Martinmas. We love getting outside at this time of year and looking at the stars and appreciating all of the light around us.

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