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Sankt Martin’s Day

Laterne, Laterne,
Sonne, Mond und Sterne.
Brenne auf mein Licht,
Brenne auf mein Licht,
aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht. 

Walking through the streets of a German town the evening of November 11th you might hear children singing this song as they carry hand crafted Paper Lanterns through the streets. The above text is the first verse of a Popular German Sankt Martin’s song.

Sankt Martin is celebrated in Germany every year the evening of November 11th. It is a fest dedicated to St. Martin of Tours and his modesty and altruism. The legend, known by all children in Germany, states that St. Martin saved a homeless man from freezing to death by giving him half of his cloak.

In the weeks leading up to Sankt Martin’s Day children make their own paper lanterns, either at school or at home. Then in the evening, a person dressed up as a Roman soldier riding on a horse, to signify St. Martin, leads a Lantern Procession through the town. As the children walk through the streets they carry their Lanterns and sing songs similar to the ones above. At the end of the procession Glühwein and sweet pastries are served.

Originally the holiday was followed by a fast that lasted until Christmas so many traditions associated with this holiday center around food. In addition to the Glühwein and sweet pastries many Germans still have a festive meal with roasted Duck or Goose as the main meal.

Written by Elena Osiander