My little lamp needs kindling,
Its beam shines far in darkest night,
Dear lantern guard me with your light.
(traditional Martinmas song)
Sunday night, following expressions of interest and encouragement from newer homeschoolers in our group, we celebrated the Martinmas Lantern Festival as a group for the first time since 2006. Prior to then we did it for years and years, as we had a core in our group that incorporated Waldorf education principles in our homeschooling and lives. Over the years, most of that core group drifted . . . moving away, life changes that precluded homeschooling, children growing into adulthood.
Earlier this year our larger homeschool group was invigorated by an energetic group of young families, with young children, who communicate with smart phones and computer/internet message boards/forum and Facebook pages, whose decisions to homeschool more often came from dissatisfaction with the abysmal public schools here and a lack of alternatives in the private school realm, rather than a philosophical choice to adopt a more family-centric and rhythmic lifestyle. Our group has entered a new era, looking different from the small, fairly tight knit group of 10 or 15 families that used a phone tree to remind people of activities because most families didn't even have home computers, much less the internet and email, cell phones were not invented. Back in the 1990's you had to look pretty hard to find us, most found the group by way of La Leche League, so we were all more or less on the same page in terms of lifestyles, if not homeschooling. But now . . . we are just a google search away. Our group is hugely diverse now, in every imaginable way -- lifestyles, homeschool philosophies, ethnicities, beliefs -- and I believe we are the better for it, and my hope and goal is that the group will be strong enough, nurturing enough, to last beyond when the last of our core group graduates from homeschooling (in just a few years), and that some of our traditions will be carried on by this newer generation of homeschoolers.
Last night our Lantern Festival included some old core members and some of these newer homeschooling families. After posting about our old Martinmas celebrations to our homeschool forum (where few of the "older" homeschool families visit either to read or post for a variety of reasons), some of the younger families were intrigued and interested in participating in such a thing. So, despite not having a common base of understanding of the principles underlying the festival (not that ALL of us EVER did, even in the old days!), we came together in a circle in the dusk, marking the season's change with story and song, halved our potatoes to share with our neighbor, broke bread from common loaves, had our potluck meal, then kindled our lanterns (some home-made, others purchased from the dollar store, some lit with flame and others lit with LED lights -- and the LED lights had the easier time of it, as the winds were ferocious here last night and keeping candles lit was a challenge!) and we all walked together around the lake at the park.
Will those younger children remember this the same way our children (now teens and adults) remember our past Martinmas festivals? Martinmas, at least for my children, was their absolute favorite can't be missed annual event -- even when we did not have group celebrations in recent years, we would do this as a family -- there's something about walking around at night with fire in a lantern through a woodsy park that touches one in a most basic, primordial way as we begin to prepare for Yule.