May Day Music

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On May 3, our Waldorf school celebrated May Day. It was a perfect day. Not to hot, not overcast and cool. The community turned out to celebrate the turning seasons, schoolwork in full blossom, and the soon-to-graduate eighth-grade class. It was marvelous and inspiring, as it is every year.

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

This year, our second graders had a part to play. They played a song on their flutes and sang, standing all in a large ring around the may pole. They were the prelude to the eighth-grade may dancers. My sweet Asher has learned to play the pentatonic flute!

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I’ve said this before, but these children are breathtakingly beautiful to me.

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

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Second graders

They played and sang beautifully with movements to go with their songs. I’m so proud of them. You can tell some are very happy to be performing, and others hang back a bit, a little shy to be in the spotlight with the school community watching them. They are growing so fast.

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

Honestly, I cannot get enough of this gap-tastic smile Asher has right now. It slays me every time he flashes it. I kind of hope his new tooth never comes in.

My littlest love at May Day

I love a boy with flowers in his hair.

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The seventh grade played the music for the eighth-grade may dancers. Most were on soprano, alto, or tenor recorders, with one boy on tambourine and another teacher accompanying them on guitar. Lucas was fond of saying they had to play the same difficult, quick song 86 times. I try to remind Lucas that he can do all kinds of things I never learned to do. (My son plays piano, flute, recorder, and violin!) These kids are more impressive with each passing month. Next year, it will be their turn to don white clothes and flower crowns and dance! Be still my heart!

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Alas, I had a major camera failure and didn’t get any pictures of the beautiful dancers this year. Something is wrong with my Canon, either in the battery charging process or else the camera is draining the battery rapidly. I suspect that perhaps it’s not really off when I flip the switch to turn the camera off. I need to take it to a shop to be cleaned, checked, and repaired, but that will have to wait. (I daydream often about getting a new, better camera.) My trusty phone ran out of available space too, so, these are the shots I got. C’est la vie!

Much love to these musicians of all ages, to the dancers, to their parents, and the school community, who together support this amazing festival every year. It fills me up and makes me hopeful and happy every time I see it.

May Day Is Coming!

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I can’t believe I didn’t post about May Day last year! My beautiful niece (that’s the simplest title) danced in her school’s May Day celebration with her eighth-grade classmates. My little son played a part with his fellow first graders in our school’s May Day celebration, too. I must have been really busy this time last year—or overwhelmed—to have missed saying how proud I am of these young people and how truly enchanted I feel by this festival so cherished by Waldorf schools.

Well, as we head into this year’s May Day celebration, and my beloved older son’s Beltane birthday, I will conjure all the beauty of this celebration with photos from last year, 2014. Indulge me.

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This is my sweet T, who is the most delightfully sweet force of nature. She is wicked smart, and funny, and charming, and kind, and diabolical, and beautiful, and compassionate, and bossy, and a born leader, and I love her deeply.

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And I was bursting with pride at this moment.

8th grade dancers #mayday #magic #maypole #festivals #holiday #goldenvalleycharterschool #family #spring #waldorf

These are shots from Golden Valley Charter School’s May Faire, May 2014. The whole school community came out on a gorgeous morning to celebrate. All the classes wore white. They have a lovely May Queen every year in their celebration. Their graduating eighth graders dance the May Pole. It is every bit as charming in 2014 as it was in 1814. You can look up vintage May dance photos to see for yourself.

The May-Pole (Excerpt)

The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup,
I’ll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown’d it.

—Robert Herrick

My lovely son #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool#waldorf #mayday #magic #7yearold #firstgrade

And there’s just nothing in the world like a boy you love festooned in flowers!

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May-Baskets

Let us take our baskets early 
   To the meadows green, 
While the wild-flowers still are pearly 
   With the dewdrops’ sheen. 

Fill them full of blossoms rosy, 
   Violets and gay 
Cowslips, every pretty posy 
   Welcoming the May. 

Then our lovely loads we’ll carry 
   Down the village street, 
On each door, with laughter merry, 
   Hang a basket sweet. 

Hey-a-day-day! It is spring now, 
   Lazy folks, awake! 
See the pretty things we bring now 
   For the May-day’s sake!

—Evaleen Stein

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At Sacramento Waldorf School, where my children go, the first graders shower the dancers with rose petals as they enter and exit, and decorate the field with petals.

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(Poor kid! I made his crown too big.)

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I have written about this special festival before. I shared our experiences of celebrating May Day in the Waldorf kindergarten, too. That this festival comes every year doesn’t seem to diminish its beauty or freshness. That must be because these shining faces are growing and changing each year. Each year a new crop of lovely eighth graders take up their ribbons and dance their hearts out. It’s a bit of an endurance event; they work to weave and wrap the pole and an intricate, well-practiced way, practically down to the ground.

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The little ones adore the rose petal “fight” at the end. This part isn’t scripted, but they all do it every year, with gusto and giggles aplenty. Such joy and silliness! The petals fly and the the parents wildly snap photos.

Lucas is absent from these shots from last year, though he was there. The sixth grade doesn’t have a special roll to play in the May Day festival, so he could just hang out with his friends and watch. This year, however, his seventh-grade class will be playing the music for the dancers. I’m really looking forward to that!

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Blessings on your Beltane!

Easter Gnomes

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It’s a bit late, but these are so sweet, I had to share them. These vintage and German Easter cards with gnomes are too cute.

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Chinese New Year in San Diego

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Ian and I went to San Diego last month for an industry conference called Cal ABA. He got to attend presentations and meet with colleagues and strategize with his business partners. He got a bunch of CEUs taken care of too. It was a great trip and I had tons of fun. We did a little bit of sight-seeing in the evenings and we had a full day on Saturday to explore San Diego.

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It happened to be Lunar New Year and we stumbled upon this amazing celebration in the Chinese part of town. It was totally cool and it was the only time during the five days we were away that I really wished our boys were with us: They would have loved to see the lion dancers and the dragons, and all the people celebrating.

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San Diego is a beautiful town, and we explored on foot, for that’s our favorite way to see a city. We walked from the Gas Light district to the top of the hill and Balboa Park.

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We visited the Museum of Man and a traveling exhibit on Instruments of Torture, which sounded really cool at first but quickly overwhelmed me. Some history is more fascinating and palatable when it’s removed—which I suppose it always is since it’s history. But seeing the racks and saws and knuckle crushers and such up close and in person was a bit too much for my vivid imagination. I made it about two-thirds of the way through the exhibit and then left and waited for Ian outside. The purpose was to call attention to the fact that torture is not merely a thing of the past, and that the capacity of harming others is something that’s still within us. It’s up to individuals to choose not to engage in such practices, and to insist that the powers of the world do not.

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But then I got to meet C3-P0, and that made me feel better. He wasn’t very talkative, however. Balboa park is truly beautiful, and the buildings are highly ornamented. I liked this goddess wall in particular:

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And this ficus macrophylla tree, which was planted in 1915 and is 80 feet tall with a canopy width of 150 feet. Amazing!

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San Diego is gorgeous and I look forward to spending more time there someday. We had terrific meals with friends in the Gaslamp quarter and in the old town.

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Our hotel/convention center was kinda weird—like a place out of time. It seemed to have been frozen in 1964, and yet, it was more adorable than not. I wish the weather had been just slightly warmer so I could have sunbathed by one of the three pools.

A lovely trip all in all!

Our Bright Solstice

#Solstice #celebration #latergram

I wonder if my posts will be more timely next year. It seems I’m forever playing catch-up, but this time I have a really good reason. I’ve been busy enjoying some beautiful holidays with my family, resting, painting, relaxing, eating too much, working just a tad. So here is my tardy account of our Solstice celebration.

Decorating our solstice cookie #winter #waldorfhome #waldorf#traditions #family #baking

Solstice cookie

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We made our traditional giant cookie for dessert. The boys opted for a spiral design with the Reese’s pieces candies this time. I think it looks great.

Happy Solstice! We're celebrating tonight.  #winter #festivals #holiday #home #waldorfhome #traditions #sabbat #wheeloftheyear

I found these sunny beauties in my garden.

Solstice dinner #waldorfhome #winter #festivals #holiday #traditions #wheeloftheyear #solstice #sabbat

We had a yummy dinner of chicken chili, cornbread, salad, sliced persimmons. I love those persimmons because when you cut them crosswise you can see the eight seeds arrayed as a sun, one for each sabbat, making a beautiful wheel of the year. It tickles me to pieces. We also enjoyed apple cider with a lemon slice in it, which is divine, don’t ya know.

Solstice dog's raw beef/peanut butter birthday cake. He came to us three years ago. I love him so.  #solstice #dog #bff #winter

And I got it in my head to make my furry friend a meat “cake” for his “birthday,” which is really the anniversary of his arrival into our home. Solstice dog got a raw hamburger “cake” frosted with peanut butter and decorated with summer squash shavings. He loved it and it took him a long time to eat it. I love this dog, and I thank my lucky stars every day that he came to live with us.

Birthday boy #solstice #dog #bff #winter

Our fireplace was out of commission this year for reasons of clutter—ahem—so we made do with this simple feast and some reading aloud. (We’re in the middle of The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman.)

I love to mark the winter solstice in this way. It helps me feel the passage of time, and to honor the changes that come with the seasons and that happen within us. It’s a special moment of winter quiet, a pregnant pause before Christmas steals the show (and all our energy). And it’s ours.

I know some families for whom the Solstice is the main winter holiday. Sometimes I wonder what that would be like, but in our family we celebrate them all.

Welcome back, Sun!

Santa Lucia: Bringing the Light

I know we are a little late,  but Happy Santa Lucia! Asher's class will be singing and delivering treats today to all the classes,  K to 12. Wish I could be there.  #winter #festivals #holiday #santalucia #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome #se

I particularly enjoyed Santa Lucia this year, knowing that Asher was studying saints in second grade and that his class would be visiting each class in the school, K through 12, to sing and deliver treats. The second graders wore white shirts and white tunics. The oldest girl in the class dressed as Santa Lucia with a crown of candles and led the procession.

We had to postpone the festival day at school because of a big storm front that moved through Northern California, dumping loads of rain and accompanied by high winds. For the first time that I can remember, school was closed. Here in the Sacramento Valley we simply do not get “snow days.” The school administrators and grounds supervisors were worried that some of our older trees might come crashing down in the storm on our 50+-year-old campus, and they didn’t want to take the chance of having any students on campus that day.

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For me, this was a blessing in disguise because I had injured my neck and had zero mobility, tons of pain, and a job to go to. Baking buns was really not possible in the midst of all that. When the festival was postponed until Monday morning, it was great news. I was able to rally on Sunday and made the best Lussekatter buns I’ve ever made.

39 Lussekatter for second grade for Santa Lucia Day #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome #secondgrade #saints #baking

We were able to enjoy a lovely breakfast that morning. I wish I had some photos of the children going class to class. (When Lucas was in second grade, I was able to be there and got some lovely shots of the children all in white, singing and processing through the school. Lucas, as youngest boy, was dressed as a little gnome.) Alas, this year I had to be at work this year on that day. I’m sure they did a marvelous job of heralding the coming of the light and bringing good cheer to the school.

And as December is always full to brimming of important moments, we had our Winter Concert on the previous Friday night. The program is such that each grade, 3 through 12, performs, and some performances are a traditional part of the program. For example, the third grade always lights the menorah and sings some songs in Hebrew. The sixth grade always performs the sword dance.

This year, our seventh grade did something new and wonderful: with the help of some African drumming teachers, they performed a dance for the jungle goddess to encourage the growth and development of the coming child. Some of the students danced, and some were drummers. Lucas opted to drum, and he was far to the left, where we couldn’t see him at all.  We did not the greatest view of the stage, but I was happy because I was in a chair with my hurt neck and not sitting on a bleacher bench. Anyway, the dance and music were beautiful and exciting. It felt nice to have the energy of the concert punched up a bit with the drums.

African dance: Kakilambe #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #12yearold #seventhgrade #christmas

7th- and 8th-grade choir at the Winter Concert at #sacramentowaldorfschool  This time I could see my son! #waldorf #music #seventhgrade

The seventh and eighth grades combined in a choir to sing as well. Lucas was front and center this time, which he didn’t care to be. He seems to be in a phase where he doesn’t much want to be onstage. (Later this year they will perform an opera and he has been assigned the role of director, for which he is grateful.) There is such a rich and varied curriculum at our Waldorf school. These students get to experience so many forms of art.

As a second grader, Asher didn’t perform this year, and he wiggled and squirmed the entire way through the concert. Ian and I enjoyed it very much. (Also, my neck is now much better.)

These are some of the ways we’ve been welcoming the light.

Happy Hanukkah!

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Hello!

I will spare you the details about how I’m behind on lots of stuff; it’s been a rough week. However, I’m feeling better and because of that my spirits are soaring! And all that stuff that’s piled up will get done eventually. More to come on Dickens Christmas Fair, tree hunting, St. Nick, and Santa Lucia.

Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago, in case you’d like to make my Star of David window stars this week. Click the link for a detailed tutorial.

I’m wishing everyone a joyful holiday season filled with light, laughter, and peace on earth. Shalom.

Advent Is Here, St. Nick Is Coming

St. Nicholas #waldorf #waldorfhome #festivals #holiday #needlefelting

I am sometimes a late bloomer, or adopter, or whatever. Advent has arrived, but half of us were sick, so, we’re … um … easing into it. We will catch up. We will slowly begin to set up for Christmas.

Do you ever find your energy for festivals and family celebrations waning? I do, sometimes. This time of year can be so overwhelming. I try to remember that my To-Do list only exists in my mind—no one else can see it. No one’s judging me when I don’t get to things I intend to do. No one knows but me. So I try to set my intentions, make my priorities clear to myself, and then let the rest go. If it happens, great! If it doesn’t, that’s OK too. As important as rhythm is, balance and sanity are just as necessary in family life. We’re only human.

One of the things that I find to be a little difficult these days is preserving the festivals for my younger son, while my older son ages past them. Not that Lucas is done with Christmas or Halloween, or really anything with treats, but he’s getting a little blasé about the stories and myths surrounding our holidays. We work hard to infuse beauty and joy and wonder into our home and family life. And keeping the magic alive for Asher is important to me. But children grow—out of some things and into others—and that’s as it should be. As a tween, Lucas is sometimes a bit lukewarm about things, and that attitude can affect my ebullient, sanguine 7-year-old, who is living into these festivals with his whole self.

There we are.

St. Nicholas’s Day is upon us (tomorrow, Saturday, December 6). We talked about St. Nicholas at breakfast this morning. Asher had lots to say because he’s been hearing stories about the Bishop of Myrna at school. He is excited for St. Nicholas to come! And he remembered that St. Nicholas brings yummy oranges. I’m sure something exciting is happening today at school. St. Nicholas and Rupert have visited the classes at school before. We’ll polish our shoes tonight, and see if any small goodies come for tomorrow morning. Simple and small is best. I’ve spiffed up my St. Nicholas nature table doll, who is a few years old now. He’s looking pretty dapper again, ready to bring goodies to the world’s children and to herald the coming of the Winter Sun King.

In honor of St. Nicholas’s Day, Eileen and I are having a one-day sale on our Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book today only (December 5)! It’s available for half price ($9.99) at http://www.littleacornlearning.com.

The e-book offers poems, stories, songs, crafts, and many special ways that families, schools, or childcare professionals can celebrate a simple, peaceful month of December. We wrote this e-book with the hope we might help people create thoughtful, heartfelt holidays, with less frenzied commercialism and more togetherness time.

Advent Mosaic 10 x 3

This mosaic is a peek at what’s in our Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book. Many thanks for reading this far, and for spreading the word to anyone who might be interested in our offering. And whatever you do this month to celebrate whichever holidays you celebrate, do it with simplicity, love, and joy. Blessings of the season on you and your loved ones!

 

Martinmas

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Today is Martinmas, the feast day of Saint Martin, who lived in the fourth century. Although I was raised a Catholic, I didn’t really learn about Martin until my older son was in second grade at his Waldorf school. Now, my younger son is a second grader, and tonight we get to go to school to have a lantern walk and meet the saint.

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I feel like I have written about this event from 2008 before, but if I did I can’t find it. When Lucas was in second grade, we walked with our lanterns through the dark school grounds and through the woods at night and came upon a silent reenactment of the story of Martin and the beggar. A man sat on a horse and a beggar man was crouched nearby, in the shadows. At first we didn’t even see him. The children sang lantern songs and watched with wonder as the splendidly dressed Martin give half of his soldier’s cloak to the beggar, who warmed himself with the garment. It was a beautiful, reverent moment—a saint story brought to life before our eyes.

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Above is a transparency I made to include in our new Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book. A tutorial can be found in our book. It was lots of fun to make and I think I’d like to do more of these, especially one of Martin giving his cloak to the beggar.

Asher has been hearing about Saint Martin a lot at school. It never ceases to amaze me how much detail young children can remember of the complex stories they hear at school. Asher got really excited to be able to teach us all so much about Martin and his generosity. As I had been writing about Martin and Martinmas, I shared some of what I learned in my research at dinnertime, and Asher just launched in with, “Oh! I know that one!” and finished the story for me. He told us four stories about Martin that his teacher had shared.

Saint Martin stands up to soldiers #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #7yearold #secondgrader #secondgrader #saints

Here is one of Asher’s school drawings, showing Martin facing an enemy army with his cross only, no weapons. Martin was an early conscientious objector. His faith in Christ made him unwilling to fight, and after a short term of service in the Roman military, he was released from duty (he later became the bishop of Tours). So in addition to his generosity toward those suffering from cold and poverty, Martin was a man of peace. It’s quite fitting, I think, that his feast day is also Veterans’ Day in the US, and Armistice Day in Europe, the day that marks the end of WWI.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

—Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D., Canadian Army (1872–1918)

Painting by Szinyei Merse, Pál (1845 - 1920) (Hungarian)

1896 Painting by Pál Szinyei Merse,  (1845–1920)

Poppies. Scarlet poppies. In the UK there is a huge art installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the sacrifice of the fallen, which can be seen in photos here. It is called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”; it is breathtaking and utterly vast, and I wish I could see it in person.

I can’t help but feel satisfied at the blending of all these overlapping festivals. Martin. Peace. Remembrance of the men and women who fell, fighting for their loved ones and countries. The Veterans’ Day holiday here, when people openly acknowledge the service and sacrifices made by our service men and women and thank them. Thanksgiving. There is a beautiful grace that evokes the poppies of Flanders fields and the human toil that we must do to benefit from earth’s abundance.

The silver rain, the golden sun,
The fields where scarlet poppies run,
And all the ripples of the wheat
are in the food that we do eat.

So when we sit for every meal,
and say our grace, we always feel
that we are eating rain and sun
and fields where scarlet poppies run.

So, I’m thinking about all these things and feeling excited about tonight. I have some lantern-making supplies here for the boys to use after school. Asher will use the lantern he made at school tonight for the lantern walk, but Lucas might want to make one to use tonight. Or he might not. He might prefer just to tag along, and stay emotionally out of it.

I’m going to gather up some clothing and coats we don’t use and take them to the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services this month. If anyone local would like to donate items also, I’ll be happy to deliver them to the organization. Let me know.

And with that, I will wish you all a season brimming with peace and gratitude.

NEW Martinmas and Thanksgiving E-Book

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It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, and I wish I had had time to blog about Halloween sooner and our beautiful trip into the foothills last weekend, but I wasn’t able to. My writing partner, Eileen, and I were working hard to complete another festivals e-book for our series. And we made it happen just in time! I’m proud to announce the NEW Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book.

It had been more than a year since our last festival book was released from Little Acorn Learning, and I have to say, I have really missed crafting and writing with Eileen. She is a wonderful, inspiring woman. She cares so much about her family and her community, and she is a powerhouse of inspiration and creativity. Everywhere she goes, she leads others to a more wholesome, soulful experience. She certainly has done so for me a hundred times over.

Here is a mosaic of some of the photos in our new e-book offered as a teaser:

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This volume is the SEVENTH (oh my gosh!) volume in our series of Festival E-Books designed to help you find a way into the natural and religious festivals that honor the earth and our human community. This book includes the festivals of Martinmas, or Saint Martin’s Day, and Thanksgiving. Although not everyone celebrates the North American holiday of Thanksgiving, we feel the twin themes of generosity and gratitude that weave throughout this e-book are universally recognized and cultivated, no matter where you live. We have endeavored to provide inspiration and celebration ideas that will help you create fulfilling and joyful holidays in your home or classroom.

This Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book contains a nature-based religious perspective as well as Christian and Native American perspectives on the abundant and happy season of harvest, when we gather together to celebrate the great bounty of the earth and our beautiful human community. There is, in our opinion, some overlap of autumn symbols and traditions, and we feel they can coexist in the context of the late autumn festivals in peace.

We hope you enjoy our e-book. It can be purchased on the Little Acorn Learning website here, and if you look around on Little Acorn Learning you will find many more delightful products there.

Authors:
~ Eileen Straiton, 
Little Acorn Learning
~ Sara Wilson, Love in the Suburbs

Contents
*Beautiful Book Recommendations
*St. Martin and Martinmas Customs
*Martinmas Verses and Songs
*Christ Appears to Saint Martin Tale
*A Very Old Story About St. Martin’s Eve
*Organize a Saint Martin’s Cloak Coat Drive
*Horsehoe Cookies Recipe
*The Autumn Ball
*Autumn Simmer Pot
*Preserving Leaves with Beeswax Tutorial
*The Robin
*St. Martin Weckmann and Afternoon Tea Recipe
*Martinmas Puppet Show
*Martinmas Lanterns Tutorial
*Easy Painted Lanterns Tutorial
*Lantern Walk
*Saint Martin Chant
*Lantern Bearer Transparency Tutorial
*Caregiver Meditation: Living Peacefully
*Martinmas Mandala Tutorial
*Games for Martinmas Time
*Fall Fabric Wreath Tutorial
*Autumn Leaf Candles Tutorial
*Harvest Mother Doll Tutorial
*Thanksgiving Leaf Mobile Tutorial
*Easy Autumn Leaf Garland Tutorial
*Kindness at My Table Tutorial
*Cornhusk Placemats Tutorial
*Why all Men Love the Moon Fable
*Giving Thanks
*Games for Thanksgiving Time
*Thanksgiving Verses and Songs
*Turkey Window Transparency Tutorial
*Caregiver Meditation: Gratitude
*Family Gratitude Journal
*Welcome to the Table
*Thanksgiving Poetry and Quotations
*Involving Children in Preparing the Thanksgiving Feast:
-Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe
-Bold and Beautiful Carrot Dip Recipe
-Baby Butter Jar Recipe
-Thanksgiving Squash Soup and Roasted Squash Seeds Recipe
-Chip-Chop Roasted Vegetables Recipe
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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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