Wrapped up warm from our heads to our toes, we drove the well-traveled route to school this afternoon as a beautiful pink sun dipped down towards the horizon. Usually there is chatter and questions and requests for story CDs, but on this day each year there is a blissful hush. A quiet anticipation, I think, of the lantern walk to come.
At our children’s school the Kindergarten celebrates Martinmas with a lovely festival hinged around a candle-lit lantern parade. There is warm, spiced apple juice to greet us, a beautiful story told as a puppet play and then the children’s lanterns – which they have made in school with their teachers – are lit and we head off on a little lantern walk, singing songs.
It’s my favourite kindergarten festival of the year. It’s peace and calm and magic stays with me for days. R always loved it while he was there. For a while I think he thought it was especially for him because it fell on his birthday one year. And this year N got to make his first lantern and take part as a fully fledged kindergarten child, rather than as a sibling. The magic of this was not at all lost on him.
There are many festivals of light all around the world and many of them fall at this time of year – mid-November to early December, just as the Winter begins to tiptoe in here. I hadn’t celebrated any of them until a few years ago when this one became part of our annual rhythmn. The beauty of that is I learned about it purely through experience, just as the children do.
The warm clothes and cold noses. The excitement of being out in the dark when we’d usually be at home. The hushed excited chatter giving way to quiet. The magic of candle-lit lanterns dancing along and lantern songs sung in soft voices. The great responsibility of holding your very own lantern and that precious flickering flame. I saw it all on N’s face as he stood beside me with his warm paw in my hand.
As we drove home I felt huge gratitude for the reminder that we can all shine our light into the darkness and that it has a bigger impact than we realise. It seemed a fitting way to end this (crazy/horrible/worrying/bonkers) week.
The story that the children were told was about a little girl who went on a journey searching for a light for her lantern and then, having found it, sharing her light with others. Such a lovely, lovely metaphor. I’m going to carry it into the next season with me.