I’ve often said that of all the new traditions we’ve discovered in Vienna, Lanternfest is my favorite. I love watching the kids with their homemade lanterns out in the autumn evening, I love their songs, I love the story of St. Martin and the moral of charity and kindness. I’m a fan. Benjamin got to do Lanternfest all 3 years he was in preschool, and last year the boys got to do it together (which I particularly loved).
Because it happens in the dark, it can be tough to see — especially for the kids, who are holding lanterns, it’s hard for them to pick out the faces of their parents beyond the glow of their own lanterns. So, even though the school practices for a few weeks leading up to it (but only in the daytime), there are always a few of the little ones who dissolve into tears once the parade and singing start.
It happened to Benjamin his first year — he got freaked out by not being able to find us in the dark. One of his teachers brought him to us (because, in the dark, it was equally impossible for us to tell that he was the one who was upset) and he was able to finish up the performance, just holding my hand. After that first year, he was fine.
With Liam, we were lucky, since he had the advantage of having seen the whole thing several times by the time it was his turn to do it. He was finally getting his wish and was up there with the “big kids”, so he was more excited than worried! Besides, Benjamin was participating too, so he wasn’t there alone (not that any of them is there alone — there are 60+ kids at the school, plus teachers and parents, but a lot of the kids still experience it as being “alone”). He did great last year.
So this year, our collective fourth Lanternfest, and Liam’s second as a participant, we expected smooth sailing. B was a little sad to not be involved, so we dug out his old lantern from last year and he brought that along to hold while he watched. We took Liam to his class, dropped him off with his teacher and went to find a good spot to watch the show.
Liam didn’t make it to the show, though. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, Liam freaked out before it was even time for the kids to line up. He was so upset that his teachers simply brought him out to us, where we were waiting in the dark. He was too freaked out to participate. Last year, we dropped Benjamin off first, so he was unfazed by us dropping him at his class. This year, I guess the thought of us leaving him inside while we all went out just worried or upset him. I offered to walk with him, or to stand by him. I tried (repeatedly) to convince him to rejoin his class. I reminded him of how much he’d been looking forward to it and how much he’d enjoyed it the year before. He declined. I was surprised, but he was firm. So, rather than walking and singing with his lantern, Liam stood with us and watched.
For the second part, where the kids and parents go on a stroll around the block, he was happy to join in. We all took a walk together and shared a kipferl (kind of a hard croissant) at the end, as is traditional. Liam was clingy, but happy. Benjamin was wistful, but also happy. It was another good Lanternfest, and I’ve officially decided to quit thinking that I have any idea of how these things are going to go from one year to the next.