Lanterns of St. Martin

In this workshop the anniversary of the day of Saint Martin becomes the pretext and the premise for a very engaging manual activity for children as well as a moment of reflection on the meaning of this celebration.

Why do you build lanterns on Saint Martin’s Day?

The figure of Saint Martin promotes and enhances the empathy that is in each of us.
Through the gesture of sharing the cloak with the poor old man, the legend pushes us to overcome the individual and selfish dimension and instead to consider others, their needs and their difficulties inviting us, in the last instance, to open up to the world.
At a time of year when the days are shortened and the lantern becomes a symbol of the light and heat of the Sun and transfigures in the inner light that sustains us through this dark and lean season.
This is a point that every tradition has declined according to its own rites. In the Christian context it is a stage in the journey towards Christmas, the day of the beginning of the fast that precedes Advent.
In previous times it was a celebration of the end of the harvest and the inauguration of the new wine waiting for the rebirth of the Sun’s light celebrated in the winter solstice.
In this activity we made our lanterns using a balloon to give the spherical shape covered with several layers of paper pieces glued with vinyl glue and water decorated with dry leaves of different colours.
The motor skills required for this type of laboratory make it suitable for children from six years old and up.
It is a very stimulating creative opportunity not only for the construction of lanterns but also on the level of collaboration and meeting with other children.


The workshop will be structured in 4 main phases.

1) Leaves collection

In the days before the workshop children are invited to collect the leaves to use to decorate the lamp. The purpose of this phase is multiple:

  • creative because it is already part of the object that will be created
  • educational as a preparatory step to the activity
  • practical since we need dry leaves for the workshop

2) Introduction

The workshop begins with a brief discursive presentation on the meaning of the lanterns of St. Martin as outlined in the first part of this page.

3) Construction

At this stage we will finally move on to practice.
Starting from a balloon (or a plastic bottle) to shape our lamp and covering it with the collected leaves and pieces of absorbent paper soaked in water and vinyl glue we’ll make our lamp.
At the end of the workshop the children will be provided with a wire cutout and a candle to complete the work at home.

4) Drying

The first delicate task will be to take home your lantern with the utmost care and leave it to dry for a couple of days allowing the mixture of water and vinyl glue to solidify.
Once the drying is finished, you can remove the balloon and fix the iron wire of the supports so you can hang the lamp.
As for the collection of the leaves this phase has a multiple importance:

  • the articulation of the work on so distinct phases is a stimulus of surprise and discovery in children
  • the educational significance of waiting is crucial
  • sharing this phase with parents enriches and crowns the result with a recognition by the most important people in the world

Quick Info

Addressed to:
  • primary and middle school
  • birthdays
  • public/private events
  • families
Age range:6-12 years
N° partecipants:Max 10 kids
Duration:3.5 hours
Required material:None