On November 11, German children celebrate St. Martin’s Day. Who is Saint Martin? Why is a flashlight a symbol of the holiday? What traditions are associated with this day in Germany? Read about all this in our article today!

It’s November, it gets dark early on the street, it is getting wet and cold, snow in Germany will not fall soon, and Christmas is still far away – the German Laternenumzug (in free translation – “Procession with lanterns”) describes this time so accurately!

Who is Saint Martin?

He lived in the territory of modern France (which is why the French also love him) in the 4th century. In his youth, Martin was a Roman soldier. It is said that once on a cold night he rode past the gates of the city of Amiens (“Sankt Martin ritt durch Schnee und Wind”) and saw a beggar. Martin himself was in a warm raincoat (“Sein Mantel deckt ihn warm und gut”), and the beggar in rags (“Hat Kleider nicht, hat Lumpen an”). Martin cut off half of his cloak with a sword and gave it to the beggar.

According to legend, the next night Martin had a dream: Jesus Christ appeared before him, wrapped in half a cloak. Jesus said to Martin: “You have done good for my brother; therefore, you have done good for me.” Martin left military service and became a preacher, and later – bishop of Tours. For his kindness and concern for the poor, Saint Martin is called the Merciful.

Why is the day associated with lanterns?

According to one of the versions, when Martin was offered to become the bishop of Tours, out of modesty he wanted to refuse and even hid in the goose-house. The townspeople were looking for him, running with lanterns through the streets of the city. Noisy birds gave Martin out with cackling, and he still had to become a bishop, and the roast goose became a traditional treat on St. Martin’s Day. Although this is only one of the versions.

Around this time, the peasants had to pay for the land, and often instead of paying, they brought geese. Perhaps the goose was also chosen as a festive dish because at this time the Christmas post begins, it’s when you cannot eat meat.

Children insert a low candle inside the latern (for safety, they put it in a glass jar). Electric flashlights are now sold in stores. They look like a fishing rod with an LED attached at the end. At the end of such a “rod” a paper lampshade is put on, which you can make yourself.

Children leave kindergarten or school and walk along the street with songs. Songs are learned in advance at school. In addition to schools and kindergartens, colorful processions are organized by churches (sometimes a rider on horseback, symbolizing St. Martin, takes part in them). The holiday is celebrated by both Catholics and Protestants. (By the way, Martin Luther, a reformer of the German church, was born on November 10 and named after Saint Martin). The Orthodox Church also venerates Saint Martin.

One of the most famous songs of this day is “Ich gehe mit meiner Laterne”

The origin of this song is unknown to today’s day, but its words and melody were discovered already in the 19th century. At the beginning, apparently, this song was not associated specifically with the day of St. Martin. Children usually sang it at the end of autumn, when they walked in the evening hours with flashlights. Lines that have a connection with St. Martin’s Day come to the fore in the middle of the twentieth century.

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