Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrating St. Martin's Day in Germany

Each November 11, Germans celebrate St. Martin's Day. But what exactly are we celebrating and why are there kids with paper lanterns in the streets? The Local has the lowdown.

What exactly are we celebrating?

Martinstag is named after St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who became a monk after being baptised as an adult. He eventually obtained sainthood from the Catholic Church for being a kind man who cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm.

What do the lanterns mean?

In many parts of Germany it is traditional for children to participate in a procession of paper lanterns in remembrance of St. Martin. They make their own little lanterns in school or kindergarten and then gather on city streets to sing songs about good old Marty and their lanterns. Often a man dressed as St. Martin with a long red cloak leads the parade on horseback.

So this is actually a big deal then?

It's officially a Catholic holiday, but in recent years the lantern processions have become widespread even in Protestant areas of Germany. So just like Santa Claus has little to do with the birth of Christ, these days St. Martin Day's is probably better known for the luminous procession than the saintly history.

So what do I do on St. Martin’s Day?

If you have kids, you’ll probably spend the evening outside with a bunch of other parents and their children. You’ll be busy frenetically relighting the tea candles in those fiddly little lanterns with cold, stiff fingers and drying tears because, as upsetting it is for the kids, paper lanterns lit by candles tend to catch fire quite quickly. Who would have thought...

To read more: http://www.thelocal.de/society/20101111-15437.html


Source photo: DPA / http://www.thelocal.de/society/20101111-15437.html

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