Millcreek students celebrate the season of giving through new and old traditions
Millcreek students have begun a new tradition at Rosecrest Elementary School and Churchill Junior High School—one with a decidedly Old-World flair.
The children partnered with This is the Place Heritage Park to celebrate Martinstag, the traditional German end-of-harvest festival.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this. It is something that we want to do yearly,” said Granite School District Artistic Director Janeane Dazley.
Dazely said this event is the brainchild of Allyson Chard.
“This is her passion. She lived in Germany for a time, and wanted to bring this touch of culture to Salt Lake City,” she said.
Martinstag (Martin’s Day) is typically associated with harvest time and the end of preparations for winter. It is often celebrated much like the American Thanksgiving feast. The traditional date of the Feast of St. Martin of Tours is on Nov. 11, but this year, Rosecrest and Churchill students celebrated Martinstag on Nov. 29 in conjunction with the Christkindlmarkt, an open winter bazaar, at This is the Place Heritage Park.
“They have worked very hard for the past few months learning traditional German Christmas songs, creating lanterns for the St. Martin lantern parade, as well as collecting coats and monetary donations to give to those in need,” Dazley said.
The oldest and most-well-known legend of St. Martin is about his time as a Roman soldier in the fourth century. He famously cut his coat in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm.
“Martin became known for his great compassion and kindness,” Dazley said.
The story of St. Martin’s kindness inspired the celebration this year to include a coat collection drive at the schools.
“And Churchill alone has raised almost $2,500 for coats,” Dazely said.
Part of St. Martin’s fame was his reluctance to become Bishop of Tours in 371. According to legend, he hid in a goose house all day until he was betrayed by the honking geese to the townspeople searching for him.
The children’s lantern parade is intended to recollect the search for St. Martin that extended into the night.
“Each year, children in Germany celebrate St. Martin’s Day by making lanterns and parading through their town streets in honor of his great act of service,” Dazley said.
At this year’s Martinstag, the school choirs sang traditional German Christmas songs at the lantern parade, and included a reenactment of the famous act of charity by St. Martin.
Dazley said she selected certain schools to participate in this new event.
“I chose Rosecrest and Churchill as two of seven schools to partner with because of their strong sense of community, and I knew that they would be reliable,” Dazley said. The other participating schools are Cottonwood Elementary, St. Vincent de Paul School, Highland Park Elementary, Edison Elementary and Dilworth Elementary.
Coat donations are being dispersed through Granite Education Foundation, an independent nonprofit that assists the district’s education goals with aid to needy district families.
School and district officials hope to make this an annual celebration to keep Old-World traditions alive.
Several Millcreek-area elementary schools are finding ways to teach charity this Christmas and to give aid to needy families.
In November, Millcreek Elementary collected four big barrels of canned goods for the Utah Food Bank, spearheaded by the student council.
“This is the first year we’ve gone through the U. of U. Unrivaled program,” said student council advisor Diana Payne, referencing the “Unrivalled Rivalry Food Drive” put on by the University of Utah’s College of Social Work.
At Upland Terrace Elementary School, students will be collecting spare change from Dec. 3 to 18 for KSL’s Quarters for Christmas program.
“Students will be doing odd jobs around the house and use their loose change to donate,” Upland Terrance PTA president Sue Rich said.
The Quarters for Christmas program raises funds for shoes, coats and winter clothing for community children.
“This is a great way for our students to participate. Our students are bringing in their coins, their dollars, whatever they want to donate,” PTA organizer Kathleen Rich said.