11: St Martin’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US. I get a holiday out of it and I appreciate that. Other than enjoying the time off, I don’t really know what to do with this day. I don’t mean to seem rude or disrespectful. I do thank the service members that have served and still serve this country, but I have no direct, personal close connection to anyone in the military.

Greta and her St. Martin’s lantern. Disregard her silly smile.

For me, November, 11 is and will always be a German holiday. We celebrate St. Martin’s Day today. It’s a catholic tradition (although it doesn’t have a lot of religious meaning for me) and the  famous legend of Saint Martin of Tours is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold.” (Wikipedia)). Saint Martin is known as the friend of children and patron of the poor.

St. Martin’s Day is one of the holidays that fall into the harvesting/fall festivities and is mostly for children. In Kindergarten and Elementary school, the children make colorful paper lanterns in art class. The nights before and on the night of November, 11, children join a procession, lead by a man on horseback dressed as St. Martin. The children carry their lanterns and sing songs about St. Martin. It’s quite the beautiful sight. After a march through town, they all come together at a bonfire where the story of St. Martin is re-narrated. Afterwards, they go back to their class room and every kid gets a bag with candy, fruits and a “Weckmann” [a pastry in the form of a gingerbread man, which is made from sweetened yeast dough].

In the Rhineland (where I am from), we also go from door to door in our neighborhood with our paper lanterns and sing songs in return for a treat. Very similar to the American tradition of trick-or-treating (minus the tricking). In a lot of areas, trick-or-treating has been adopted now for Halloween, but that didn’t used to be the case when I was a kid.

Today, all my family is getting together to enjoy traditional St. Martin’s Day food, “Martinsküchlein” (yeast-dough cookies), which were traditionally given to the servants and children back in the days. They’re delicious and I hate missing out on these traditional family get togethers. I am just going to pretend I could put one of those delicious treats in my mouth right now.


What are you doing today?

P.S. Today is also the beginning of the Carnival season in the Rhineland area. The “fifth season”, as we call it, starts on 11/11 at 11:11 am.  Kölle Alaaf!

  1. Mmmmmm…. Those look yummy! St. Martin sounds like the patron saint of a fun school day ;). So, off topic, the other day I made myself a German pancake, where you bake it and the sides get all high so it is kinda a bowl shape and the edges are brown and delicious… Anyway. You should bake yourself something truly German so you don’t feel like you are missing out!!

  2. Even though I am Catholic, I hadn’t heard of St. Martin’s day! It’s cool to hear about traditions and celebrations in other countries.

    I had today off since the bond market was closed. I was busy last weekend so I used today as my day to relax, read, and get caught up on stuff around my house. It’s turned cold here, so I am making beef stew for Phil and I for dinner.

  3. I’m always so grateful for all that you teach me about German culture!

  4. Oh I remember St. Martins Tag.
    However, being a Protestant I guess it’s not so clearly Catholic… But I wouldn’t know.
    We walked around with our lanterns too but I’ve never heard of Martinsküchlein. But they look delicious. Oh and I never got this Weckmans or did the trick-or-treating thing either. So I guess even in Germany’s opposite borders, holidays are celebrated much different.
    Thanks for sharing, Tobia

  5. Your niece is so cute! I love her lantern. So pretty.

    Apparently in China on 11/11 it’s “Singles Day” and it’s the biggest day that they all go out and shop. NPR did a story about it yesterday.

    I’d never really heard about any of these holidays (including Veterans Day – well until I moved to the US) since there’s not 11/11 holiday in Lebanon!

  6. I am from the catholic south and here we have St. Martin itself, his horse and the kids with the lanterns but we do not have a special cookie or whatever.
    My husband, who is lutheran and from Cologne, was the one who told me about the Weckmann and the treat-thing. We are not used to this here in Bavaria. And it seems even St. Martin is a catholic saint he is kind of adopted from the lutherans because it is a nice tradition and all the kids likes the lanterns. Opposite my office is a kindergarden with kids from a lot of different parts of the world. Believe me, on St. Martins it does not belong to the religion of the kid because all of them are walking the parade.

  7. St. Martins day isn’t important in the religious matter to me, but personally it is a special day. First both my brother and my boy friend are called Martin. And second, 11/11 is the anniversary day from my boyfriend and me (dating for 5 years now).

    Growing up in the eastern part of Germany, which first was the socialist part and second is more lutheran, we never celebrate St.Martins Day. But nowadays, since its my brothers “name day” my mom sometimes makes Martins Goose.

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