November 11th is the feast day of St Martin or Martinstag here in Germany. Don’t worry it’s not one of those mid week shop shutting feast days, but you might just run into a horse being ridden through your town followed by a trail of children singing whilst carrying paper lanterns which contain a naked flame.
The story goes that St Martin started out as a roman soldier who later went on to become a monk, so the horseman you see might be dressed as either, in our town he’s a soldier. He gave up half his cloak to keep warm a beggar one night, and dreamt that Jesus was wearing the cloak, hence his baptism as an adult and his later becoming a monk.
Bonfires are popular around this time, and are known as Martinsfeuer and a lantern parade is something that kindergartens and schools prepare for a few weeks before the 11th. The children learn songs to sing as they walk around the town, ‘Ich geh mit meiner Laterne’ and ‘Sankt Martin ritt durch Schnee und Wind’, which sound utterly adorable
and irritatingly repetitive as most children’s songs are and thankfully only get sang at intervals on the procession.
The kids also make lanterns, paper lanterns, which generally have a candle inside to light them. Sounds legit. I’d be the mum with a battery powered candle, always, any kid of mine would be sure to set something on fire, clumsy genetics. If the excitement of a naked flame and singing in public wasn’t enough, the kids also usually receive a sweet treat of a pastry that is either shaped like a croissant (the shape of a horses hoof) or a man (St.Martin himself).
So, if you hear what sounds like a horse going past your house, it might just be a horse, go listen to the kids when they stop outside your door.
PS. Sorry about the dark pictures but I always err on the side of caution when it comes to having people I don’t know in shot, especially kids.