Today in Germany, villages of children will celebrate St. Martin’s Day with a parade of lanterns.
I got to see the celebration once through the eyes of my daughters. And the memories of the night have always stuck with me… I think of it when the leaves have mostly fallen and the nights get longer.
St. Martin’s Day chases away the dreariness of long cold nights with thoughts of cheer and warmth and generosity.
St. Martin is a famous Christian saint. He was a bishop known for his charity and good heart. Every November, the children in the German villages celebrate the day he was buried.
The legend is that when St. Martin was a soldier, he was out on a cold winter’s night and saw a poor man with no cloak. Martin took his sword and cut his own cloak in two so he could give the freezing man something to wear. This scene is re-enacted each year (the bigger kids in the kindergarten did a short play) and it is the act that St. Martin is famous for.
So in honor of St. Martin’s charity during winter, the children walk around the village singing songs and holding lanterns to light up the darkness and remind everyone of St. Martin.
In the legend, the children of the village saw Martin cut his robe for the poor man, so they ran back with their lanterns to tell the tale. The lantern-walk celebration is meant to remind us to bring light to the dark, charity to the poor, and warmth to the cold. It’s a super heart-warming night.
Fun fact: When my sweet German friend Julia was a kid they used real candles inside their paper lanterns!
As we walked through the part of the village near the kindergarten, everyone in the group was cheerful and some were singing the St. Martin songs. One old man who lives along the path had set up his own lanterns in the walkway and was out front greeting everyone!
When we got to the kindergarten, they had a huge bonfire set up right in the middle of the playground!
This tent is where they were selling gluhwein and other hot drinks and snacks. The “glowing wine” or spiced wine, is always super cozy on a cold night. They also had some non-alcoholic gluhwein for the kids… Elsa and Anna were pretty excited about their “yummy juice!”
The other tradition of St. Martin’s evening is to have special St. Martin pretzels. They are made from a slightly sweet dough, and taste super awesome with the wine.
This is such a super cool German tradition. I was so thankful that we were able to participate and learn about it.
I think Julia said it best: “It makes you thankful for what you have, to share with others that don’t have as much, like St. Martin did.”
She’s right. And it also made me ponder the things that bring warmth to this cold time of year… Light. Fire. Hot cups of warm drink. Memories made with family and friends.
As we come into the winter months, take some time to think of the light and warmth of this time of year, not just the ice you have to scrape from your windshield or the snow you will have to shovel from your driveway.