Circle Times

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why take a Lantern Walk?

A few years ago, Shane Claiborne's writing got me thinking about holidays - and particularly about rituals that go with holidays and how they shape us.  He writes about the great need we have - for new heroes, new rituals, new songs and new celebrations that will help us become the people we want to be.  His point was that, if we are to form an identity that runs deeper than national pride or popular culture, we must be intentional to celebrate heroes and holidays which honor that identity we seek.

Martinmas and the Lantern Walk is one of those (old, but new-to-me) rituals that I need.

I need a ritual to remind me to carry light into dark places.  I need to remember that even in the darkest part of the year, or in the darkest times in my life, I do carry an inner light.

I need a hero like Saint Martin.  A powerful, high-ranking military man who was transformed by the humanity of a beggar he met.  He could easily have kept his place of privilege, but he took a much more difficult road, choosing to love and serve his "enemies" rather than fight them with sword.  I need his courage - courage that continued this service to others even as he was demoted, insulted, jailed and beaten for refusing to fight in the name of the empire.  And I need his insight that, in the eyes of every person he served, he saw a spark of the Divine.

People of many traditions celebrate this idea (of Divine inner light, of service to others who also share that Divine light) with lantern walks, but for me it also makes this scripture from Matthew 5 ring so loud in my ears:

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

These are the things I need to learn...and things I want my boys to learn.  And that's a great reason for a lantern walk under the moon.

As my boys are young, we kept it very simple this year - A walk to remember that we carry light within us - that we can light up even these days when night grows long - and that we do it with service to others.  

I go outside with my lantern,
My lantern goes with me
Above the stars are shining bright,
On Earth are shining we

So shine your light in darkest night
La bimmel la bammel la boom
'Neath heaven's dome, 'till we go home
La bimmel la bammel la boom


  1. Some of you have requested the instructions for the lanterns we made. They can be found here:

  2. Thank you for sharing this! This is a beautiful read and worth sharing. As an author I always believe in carrying that "Inner Light". To remind me that during darkness there is always light at the end of the tunnel, like a rainbow after the rain. This is definitely moving, and hopefully the people will realize this and start walking carrying their own "Inner Light".

    Jeff Rivera

    Bestselling Author