Celebrated on November 11th, St. Martin's Day is an equivalent of Halloween, which honors one of the most popular Catholic saints. St. Martin of Tour was a Roman soldier and later became a monk. Martinsumzug is widely celebrated in German-speaking countries with bonfires and lantern processions.
"Martinsfeuers" are lit up over almost a fortnight before St. Martin’s Day. The River Rhine is paved with fires on Martinmas eve. In the Rhineland region, gatherings by the fire on Martin’s Day are common with a roasted suckling pig shared between the neighbors. One of the largest bonfires is set up at Marktplatz in Bonn on November 10, right after the parade that starts at 5 pm in the Hofgarten.
Parades and children's lantern processions take place either on November 10th or 11th. Kids make colorful lanterns at their schools and prepare songs for the holiday. The parade usually starts at a church and continues to a public square with a man on a horse dressed like St. Martin. When children reach the square, Martin’s pretzels are distributed and Martin’s bonfire is lit. An authentic St. Martin's Day parade can be witnessed in a small town of Riedlingen, Baden-Württem.
In Bergisch and Rhineland, children also go from house to house holding their lanterns, singing songs and getting candies in return. It's thought to be a Catholic holiday, but now the lantern parades have become popular even in Protestant regions of Germany.
St. Martin's Day is also all about food. The traditional red cabbage and dumplings are part of the festival on this day. Another special guest is goose. Legend has it that the church leaders forced Martin to become a bishop and he had to hide in a stable filled with geese. Their loud gabbling gave him away, so that might be the reason for killing and cooking geese on that day. Or maybe because it's the start of the fasting season, and St. Martin's Days is the last occasion to eat some greasy meat, called Martinsgans.
The traditional sweet of Martin Day is a pastry shaped like a croissant. Germans call it "Martinshörnchen." It symbolizes the half of Martin’s mantle. In parts of western Stutenkerl or Weckmänner, these pastries can be shaped like men.