Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Martinmas Celebration

It was a perfect evening for our annual Martinmas pilgrimage around the dark neighborhood. It was cool, but not cold and it was neither windy nor raining, for the first time in our history of celebrating the feast day of St.Martin. Dinner was improve upon pasta and veggies (see below).

St.Martin is the patron saint of France. He was a warm-hearted Roman soldier who gave half his cloak to a freezing beggar one night. He dreamed that same night that the poor man had really been Jesus. This was the miracle that completed his conversion to Christianity. He preached for years and years all over Gaul and became a well-loved bishop. There are tiny towns all over the French countryside named after St.Martin. Oddly enough, it is in Germany that this feast day is the most celebrated.

The children and I love this special day. We usually read the story of St.Martin and sometimes act it out during the day and make our lanterns. Then, after sunset, we venture out bringing light to the dark night. This year's lanterns (tin cans) are the result of many years of experimentation. The beautiful paper lanterns of years past never held up to the absolutely atrocious weather we have always had, not to mention constantly requiring re-lighting of the candles. The candles this year are beeswax ones the kids rolled themselves. Last year, the yarn on the can quickly burnt from the flame, so we gave wire a try this time. The first three lanterns were done with wire someone salvaged from a notebook. When we ran out of that we used floral wire. The only relighting we needed to do was when a little one dropped a lantern a time or two.

After a simple dinner of pasta (made with butter and a little heavy whipping cream to make it nice and smooth, sprinkled with Parmesan), carrots (grated and tossed with a white wine/olive oil vinegrette*), and ham, dessert was yogurt (plain with a little sugar and berries), we bundled up and lit out lanterns. Out we ventured to light up the darkness with our tiny flames. It was very dark. We live on a street without lights. The mood was so very quiet and reverent and maybe lonely, that it made us want to sing. Someone began a Christmas carol, because we don't know any Martinmas songs. Everyone joined in singing softly. It was still loud enough that if the neighbors didn't already think we were nuts, it was probably established now. There are times when we sing loudly, I like to think it is when everyone is safely at work and can't hear us, but this was a special, quiet time in the dark.

Lily spent the most time on her lantern, preparing and painting it the day before, pounding the holes in and decorating it later. Alienor was very proud to have the lantern whose flame burned the longest. We walked all the way down to the woods a few blocks away and into them to see how dark they really were at night. On the way home, the candles began going out one by one, but Alienor coaxed and encouraged hers to last until we returned. She did it, it lasted, all the way to the house, through teeth-brushing and even past official bedtime (we know because she came down to check.) It was a happy, cozy night, all in all.

* Vinegrette: mix 3-4T olive oil (extra virgin, first press) with 1T white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, stir/ whisk vigorously, pour over salad, toss.

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