Little Holidays: Martinmas

I’m so glad Elizabeth posted about Martinmas a few days ago.  This little holiday has been on my radar, but would have slipped right by. 

Henry is going to be a little too little to really partake in many of these ideas this year, but I have some ideas.

What is Martinmas?

  • It is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours – There’s a lot of info about this holiday so I’m just going to redirect you to Wikipedia for now.

Martinmas Activities:

Whether you’re celebrating it as a religious holiday or as part of a more secular observation – Waldorf Schools are a big fan of Martinmas – the big focus seems to be on lanterns.

  • Make a lantern
  • Go on a “lantern” walk

One of the stories about St. Martin revolves around his dividing his clock in two to share with a beggar to save the person from freezing to death.  He later had a vision of Jesus wearing his halved cloak

  • Take this time to go through your closets and see what you can divide for those in need.
  • Take items – clothing, food, and other donations to your local crisis center, food bank or winter clothing drive.
  • If you’re crafty (or just want an official day) choose Martinmas as a date to handout your knitted goods like hats, scarves and mittens just in time for the winter!
  • Many Martinmas treats revolve around the horseshoe as St. Martin is often pictured riding a horse.  It’s also rumored that if it snows on St. Martins it will snow on Christmas – referred to as St. Martin riding a white horse.  If there was no snow on St. Martins, then there would be no snow on Christmas and St. Martin would be said to being riding on a black horse.

Martinmas also marks the beginning of winter for many and the end of the harvest, typically with the slaughter of an animal – like a pig or cow.  Martinmas used to be the last day to feast before the penitential fasting took place leading to Advent.

  • Go through your own supplies and provisions and make sure you are prepared for the winter weather.
  • Enjoy a large, rich meal complete with a main item like a roast (goose is also traditional for Martinmas) – but don’t forget to keep charity in mind; perhaps invite friends or family over to share your meal or include similar items in a donation to a food bank.

St. Martin was a soldier and is considered the patron of soldiers.  November 11th is also when Armistice/Veteran’s/Remembrance Day occurs

  • Participate in local observances for your veterans
  • Consider doing a work of charity that supports your military/veterans or their families, particularly with the holiday season approaching.

We hope to celebrate Martinmas simply this year.  I have an idea of a toddler friendly lantern project that we might attempt, but we’ll wait to do a lantern walk for another couple of years.  Hopefully by that time we can find other families to participate!  I think Henry and I will go buy some hats and gloves to donate to the crisis center and perhaps hit up the thrift stores for some quality outerwear (that fits our budget) to add to that donation.

I really like the idea of using Martinmas as my day to present the family with their handknits (or at least new winterwear) for the year instead of waiting or “regifting” at Christmas.  This is definitely going to happen next year.

No matter which direction you come at it Novemeber 11th seems like a good day to prepare for winter, reflect on the brave men and women around you and take the opportunity to bring a little light into your world and the world of others.

I’d love to hear about your Martinmas or Veterans Day traditions!  Does November 11th hold any special meaning to you?

7 thoughts on “Little Holidays: Martinmas

Add yours

  1. Oh man! I forget about it every year. I blame the military and all the moving and the inability for me to stick to yearly traditions. I hope to really be better at this when we aren't moving every couple of years. In Switzerland, when I was little, we carved little lamps from turnips, hung them on a stick and put a tea light inside and took a walk with the other children and parents and sang little songs. I loved it.


  2. I have never celebrated this day, but Jimmy's middle name is Martin and it is his Grandpa's name. I really need to get on board with celebrating “Name Days” (as Zach's grandma would call it… she made a cake for every birthday and name day for all her 13 kids). I have also wanted to start a tradition of taking jackets to homeless people in downtown Phoenix. I don't know if I am ready to do that with my kids for safety reasons, but I love the idea of doing at a certain day and remembering a saint we are trying to emulate. Thanks for motivating me. If not this year, then soon.


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