CONTRIBUTED BY KARI MARTINDALE
Note: This article is “Out of the Archives” just in time to explain St. Martin’s Day, celebrated on November 11.
Martinstag is coming! I’ll admit it: I arrived in Germany two years ago with no idea who St. Martin of Tours (Sankt Martin) was. So when 11 November, or Martinstag, approached in our town, my daughter’s Kindergarten began preparations and I had no idea what was happening: the children were making lanterns for a procession through town, we were ordering pretzels, and we were marking off some dates in our calendar.
St. Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier born in 316 AD. He is best known for cutting his cloak in half to give it to a beggar dressed only in rags. That night, it is said, he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the beggar’s half of the robe. St. Martin is now the patron saint of beggars, among other things. He spent his time in the military conflicted: should he be killing on the battlefield, or following Christ.
In Germany on the evenings leading up to, and the evening of, Martinstag, the children celebrate St. Martin. Sometimes schoolchildren gather in the town square to watch a reenactment of his kind act of sharing his cloak with a beggar, and they sing traditional Martinstag songs. The horse then leads a procession through town, the children holding their lanterns proudly.
During our first Martinstag experience, the horse led us through the main streets of Dieburg and on to my daughter’s Kindergarten, which hosted the traditional bonfire at the end of the procession. There, everyone drank Glühwein, sang traditional songs, and received their pre-ordered pretzels.
During our second Martinstag, my daughter was in first grade. Her class walked a short procession to a parking lot, where they sang the traditional songs. Laterne, Laterne (“Lantern, Lantern”) and Ich geh mit meiner Laterne (“I go with my lantern”) are two very popular Martinstag songs.
In our town of Dieburg, there is a fall celebration and Middle Ages market called Martinsmarkt. This year, the market runs from Friday 07– Sunday 09 November, 2014. Our town will become host to an awesome festival and market that stretches across the Marktplatz and through the streets of town. It rivals medium-sized Weinachtsmarkts and actually sells some items one would find at a Christmas market. In a town garden, they hold a Middle Ages market where artisans sell wonderfully hand-crafted items made of materials such as leather, iron, and glass.
There is plenty of food and drink to go ‘round. Some people wear period costume, wandering through the Middle Ages kiosks in their Renaissance dress. It’s a great way to ease into the Weihnachtsmarkt season with food, fun, and Glühwein!