Saint Martin’s Day

Today, is the 11th of November. In my very early childhood I celebrated Saint Martin’s Day every year. When I started school, I was shocked to discover that this was not celebrated everywhere in Germany, that so many children had no idea what fun the 11th of November could be.

National Blog Posting Month, NanoPoblano, NaBloPoMo, 2015Proudly equipped with a handcrafted lantern I would join the other kids in the Saint Martin Procession through the small town in which my kindergarten was located. We would follow Saint Martin sitting on his horse through the streets, singing songs in his honour. Sometimes a little accident would happen, such as a lantern lighting up in flames, it was not only scary but also heartbreaking that all this hard work, all these efforts were erased in a few seconds.

The lyrics of these songs have actually taught me many details of the story behind Saint Martin. He was a Roman who was for some reason searched for by the police. At one point he encounters a beggar who is only dressed in shreds, he divides his cloak and gives half of it to the poor fellow. Then he hides inside a farm building, not knowing where he goes he finds himself in the company of geese. But unlike geese normally do, these keep their beaks shut and don’t give Saint Martin away. Turns out that I did not remember the right details/I was told an alternative version of the story (most likely)… The geese did give him away! (Sorry for this hiccup).

To honour the quiet geese, often people will feast on Saint Martin’s day with a goose. We never had goose that day, but we received Weckmänner, small brioche cakes in the shape of a man equipped with a pipe. Let me tell you they were so good.

After the procession in honour of Saint Martin was over, it was time to go from door to door and sing to people, who in exchange for the songs gave candy and treats to us children singing them. I remember receiving healthy food such as clementines from one of my neighbours, I guess not everyone was informed of this regional tradition.

When I later went trick or treating on Halloween, I was reminded of Saint Martin’s day, I was just missing my lantern.

© Solveig Werner 2015. All rights reserved.

21 thoughts on “Saint Martin’s Day

    1. ah I did some post posting research, turns out my memory played me tricks, or I was told the wrong story, ah when I see what teachers teach at times, I guess that might be what happened…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just read your correction. So people eat geese out of spite 😉 Anyway, that wasn’t the important part. The important part is the kids parading with lanterns.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just looked it up. They were going to make him bishop and he was hiding with the geese because he didn’t want to be bishop. So the geese were really a life ending thing. And my parents used to vacation on St. Martin, or, actually St Maarten as they stayed on the Dutch side.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You are welcome, I think that in Portugal it is celebrated as well.
      I think in many countries Veteran’s day has pushed this celebration in the realm of forgotten traditions.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What? People honor geese by eating them? Some how that seems mildly backwards, but I would never complain about eating a goose. (Wish we had a holiday to eat geese here, but just turkey and ham.) Course, I suppose hunting season is always an excuse to eat geese. ^.^

    And I have never heard of this holiday. I love how different countries have different holidays and it’s always so much fun celebrating them. It’s also funny how you receive candy like we do on Halloween.

    P.s. Ich wünsche dass wir Sankt Nikolaus Tag in Amerika feiern würden.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What about christmas and geese?
      It does seem strange, but it marks the beginning of the fasting before christmas, so maybe they just combined a feast (eating a goose) with the celebration…
      Ah ich werde hoffentlich am 6. über Nikolaus schreiben 🙂

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      1. Christmas and geese? Christmas is supposed to have ham. Though my family often times had another turkey. Not complaining. All is delicious!
        There’s a fasting time before Christmas? 0.0 I never heard of that!
        Sie müssen auch über Krampus schreiben, weil es fast ein Film darüber geben werden. Freue mich darauf! ^.^

        Liked by 1 person

        1. there is but no one, really no one knows that anymore (or wants to know). I think there are at least two fasting times in the year…
          Ah, Krampus kenne ich nicht wirklich, aber Knechtruprecht 🙂 und ich glaube, dass ist die gleiche Person nur mit einem anderen Namen. Du kannst “du” zu mir sagen.

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          1. Where did you find out that there was a fasting time before Christmas? I know the one before Easter.

            Achso! Ich habe nie von Knechtruprecht gehört. Vielleicht hat es mit Wohnort zu tun welche die Leute kennen.
            Oh! Danke! ^.^


            1. So I did some research after your question, turns out that the geese did give him away (I have a feeling my teachers twisted the story in the past). So for the fasting, initially it was until christmas, now few people still do it for 2 weeks. I knew of it somehow but searching the internet (in German) did provide me some more details). Nowadays in Cologne people consider Saint Martin’s day as the beginning of Carnival, I did see some strangely dressed people in photographs on other blogs…

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Aha! The truth comes out! :p I’m sorry to hear the geese gave him away, but glad that we get to eat them because of it. Hee hee.

                Only in Cologne? Isn’t Carnival a national thing that everyone celebrates at the same time?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. it is but well normally it is celebrated the week before lent starts… And well Cologne and Düsseldorf are the two cities where it is a week of celebrations and not just a day. Well in Cologne they like starting things early…

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Oh! I didn’t realize that. Thank you for letting me know. ^.^ Carnival always looks like so much fun and I could totally see Cologne wanting to start early. :p The people there seem like the type. Hee hee.

                    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s really interesting. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never heard of this or, if I have, I’d forgotten these specifics. And I thought I knew all the festivals that were similar to modern-day Halloween. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t be embarrassed, many people in Germany don’t even know it… It’s regional, ok kids generally grow up with the songs and the, but not with the festival that comes with it or the going from door to door bit. In a way it combines trick or treating and carolling 🙂


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