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Saturday, November 16, 2013

St. Martin's Parade of Lanterns

On November 11th, when Americans are celebrating Veteran's Day, Germans are celebrating St. Martin.  Julia filled me in on all the details and helped me sort out some of Lily's kindergarten celebration.  It was super fun to have her and Pedro and Chase join us.  

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 have a parade of lanterns on the day St. Martin 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.

Lily made a lantern at school, and my friend Rebecca told me I could buy the little lights and a lantern for Sam at Globus. Fun fact: Julia said when she was a kid they used real candles inside their paper lanterns!  I can't even imagine the peril we would have all been in had Lily and Sam been entrusted with fire!

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 our 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!  The firefighters were keeping everything really safe, but we joked that this was probably not the best example to the kids ;o) Lily was pretty impressed that there was a fire in her playground!  

We also all joked that it was kind of a funny/dangerous tradition... the whole "hey let's get a bunch of small uncoordinated children together in the dark and freezing cold and give them pointy lights and breakable lanterns... surely nothing can go wrong there!"  All in all, though, Sam only tripped and crunched her lantern a few times.  All's well that ends well?

"Yook!  My school!"   Lily was super pumped when she realized our walk ended at the school.  We had recently taken Jesse to give him a tour, but she still excitedly grabbed him, as well as Pedro, Julia, and Chase, to show them her classroom!

The woman in the bottom left corner is one of Lily's main teachers, Sarita.  I'll get a better picture of her sometime... I didn't actually realize it was her when I was taking this shot!  We also ran into Lily's other teacher, Katya... Lily ran right up to her for a hug!

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... Lily and Sam 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.  

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 have to shovel from your driveway.

What's your lantern?  This parade made me think of winter as a welcoming time, rather than a dreary time.  High-five Germany!


  1. There are so many things that I like about Germany (from your blog anyway ;). I love how they have many traditions to celebrate and remember what's important. It makes me want to celebrate more traditions with my family too. Cassie

    1. Haha yeah my blog... probably not THE BEST or most accurate description of all things Germany. But I do try ;o) And I hope I carry on some of these awesome traditions when we leave here. Cause Germany rocks!