FOR the first time we experienced Martinmas with a really large group of people. All four kindergarten classes at Emma's school, along with their families, gathered after dark. Everyone carried a lantern - the children's made in school, others brought from home. The ceremony began quietly, and we walked a magical candlelit path through the woods in a long procession, quietly singing lantern songs. In the middle of the woods, a blazing bonfire invited us to gather and sing together, before we quietly peeled off back to our cars, a generous chunk of gingerbread pressed in everyone's hand.
While the story of Martinmas is of St. Martin, who cut his cloak in two to share with a freezing beggar, the theme of bringing light to the dark, hope to the foresaken, is especially poignant for young children.
"St. Martin, St. Martin, St. Martin rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow.
He rode so boldly through the storm
His large cloak kept him well and warm.
By the roadside, by the roadside, by the roadside a poor man arose
Out of the snow in tattered clothes.
Kind sir, please aid me in my plight
Or else I'll die from cold tonight.
St. Martin, St. Martin, St. Martin stopped his horse and drew
His sword and cut his cloak in two.
One half to the beggarman he gave
And by this deed his life did save."