November 11 is not only Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day around the world, it is also the feast of St. Martin of Tours, also known as Martinmas. Regardless of your religious denomination, St. Martin is a man worth taking the time to learn about.
Soldier and reluctant bishop
You can find many sources for Martin’s biography on the internet. A brief but thorough one can be found here: St. Martin of Tours. A short, child-friendly story of St. Martin can be found here: Martinmas Story. But let me briefly give you the highlights now.
Martin was a Roman soldier living in modern-day France in the mid-300’s. One cold winter day he came upon a beggar dressed in rags. He removed his mantle, cut it in two with his sword and gave half of it to the beggar. That night he dreamed that he saw Jesus with the half of the mantle he had given to the beggar. Jesus said to the saints and angels around him, “”See! this is the mantle that Martin, yet unbaptized, gave me.” He was immediately baptized.
Legend has it that later when Martin was to be made a bishop, he objected so much that he ran and hid in a goose house. The geese honked so loudly that they gave him away.
Teaching About St. Martin
The example set by St. Martin is a lesson for everyone. By now the weather has turned colder and I’m sure that most of you have stored your summer clothes away and have filled your closets with warmer clothes. In following the example of Martin, which winter clothes can you give away? Outgrown clothes from your children, or your own clothes that you know you don’t need can all be donated. Like St Martin, we can also clothe the needy, not with mantles, but with warm winter clothing.
Martin was a soldier, and how appropriate that his feast day is Veteran’s/Armistice Day! How about spending some time with your children making cards for veterans? No matter how fancy, cards made with love by children are always appreciated. Make them on Martinmas and send them off to your local VA Hospital in time for Thanksgiving or Christmas. (Due to security reasons, places like Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Bethesda Naval Medical Center cannot accept cards addressed to “any soldier.” Please contact them or other veteran’s hospitals first to find out how and who to address cards to.)
Scout groups, homeschool co-ops or Sunday School classes can conduct clothing and food drives and make deliveries on Martinmas.
Because of the St. Martin’s association with geese, goose is the traditional meal served on Martinmas. If you’d rather not do that, how about sharing this traditional English proverb with your children:
If the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas.
Make a note on the calendar of the weather on Martinmas and don’t forget to check the weather on Christmas Day to see if the prediction was correct!
Recognizing “the light” in others is a common theme in the story of St Martin. Martin brought light and warmth to those who were in darkness, and in keeping with this, one of the most enduring Martinmas traditions in the lantern walk. Children create their own handmade lanterns, then gather together after nightfall to walk and sing while carrying their lit lanterns.
Last year, my family had our own lantern walk. We made a quick soup for dinner, then set out for a brief walk. We sang “This Little Light of Mine” for starters, then moved on to easy, well known children’s songs like, “Row Your Boat”, “Three Blind Mice” and “Down By the Station.” We sang the latter songs as a round, usually boys with boys, girls with girls. We returned home for our soup and before we ate, we remembered to pray for the homeless who were out in the cold that night.
This year we are hosting our homeschool group in a lantern walk. Our plan is to gather at our house around 7 PM, with the lanterns we will have made earlier in the day. We’ll walk and sing around the block and return to our house for cookies, coffee and hot chocolate. We’ll have the children break their cookies in two and share them with a friend.
Making Martinmas Lanterns
Even though this post is already quite long, I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you with a paper lantern tutorial!
You probably have most of the supplies at home, if not then you still have time to run to the store and get them.
Here’s our basic supplies. A sheet of 12×12 cardstock for each lantern and tissue paper. If you have them, jumbo paper punches would be very helpful. 12 x 12 cardstock can be found with the scrapbooking supplies at your craft store. Or ask a scrapbooking friend, she’ll have a variety of colors to choose from and will most likely be happy to give you some. She’ll also have paper punches.
So here we go! Cut 2″ off one end. Save the scraps!
Fold 3/4″ from the cut edge and glue it down. I used a Fiskars paper cutter with the scoring blade to help fold the cardstock. You can use the flat edge of a butter knife to score the paper, then use the handle to flatten the fold down.
Draw a line 2″ from the bottom edge, score along that line…
…and cut notches. Be careful not to cut past the line. (In the picture below I cut rather large notches. I’d recommend cutting more, smaller notches, to help the paper roll into a tube easier.)
Punch out shapes with your paper punch. You can also draw images to cut out. If you do that, I highly recommend basic shapes about 1″-2″ in size. Stars, moons and leaves are also simple to draw and easy to cut out. Keep your figures away from the bottom fold line, instead keep them to the center of the paper.
Cut tissue paper to fit the inside of the lantern. Don’t go crazy measuring and trying to get a perfect fit. You can use one piece for the whole lantern or use smaller pieces in different colors for each cut out. Glue the tissue paper over the cut-outs. Make sure you get the glue right up to the edges of the cut-outs so that the tissue sticks well when the lantern gets rolled up. I had my children use glue sticks for this part since tissue paper is so fragile.
Below is the finished lantern You can attach a ribbon or string across the top so that the lantern can be carried on a stick for Martinmas lantern walk.
Of course, these lanterns are highly flammable! Please don’t use real candles with them. We are using those fake tealights that are widely available. You could also use chem light sticks.
You can find Lorri and her family getting ready for Martinmas and other holidays over at The Mac and Cheese Chronicles.
Join 15,000+ Other Awesome People
Subscribe to the Real Life at Home weekly newsletter to get our latest content, exclusive free printables, learning activities, and ideas for celebrating with your family all year