Best time to go to Germany

St. Martin's Day 2018

Get your portion of family warmth sitting by the Martinsfeuer

St. Martin's Day in Germany - Best Time
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© Raul Lieberwirth

Celebrated every November 11th, St. Martin's Day is dedicated to a Roman soldier who became a monk. The Catholic Church proclaimed him a saint for being kind enough to cut his cloak in half and to share it with an almsman during a snowstorm.

Bonfires on St. Martin's eve are a popular custom in Germany. The processions that go along with "Martinsfeuers" are spread 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 is the main attribute of the holiday. During such snuggles, there must always be a roasted suckling pig shared with the neighbors.

Talking of pigs, St. Martin's Day is also about food. We mean lots of different food! The traditional red cabbage and dumplings especially. But the special guests are the geese. Why geese? Legend has it that the church leaders forced Martin to become a bishop, that's why he had to hide in a stable filled with geese. No matter how good and kind he was, this was his most ingenious idea. Their loud gabbling towards Martin’s appearance gave him away with the giblets. Well, it might be the reason for killing and cooking goose on that day. Or maybe because it's the start of the fasting season, so St. Martin's Days is kind of the last occasion to eat some greasy meet, called Martinsgans.

Traditional sweet of Martin Tage (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.

The night before and on November 11th, large processions of children with lanterns singing Martin songs take place. Those colorful lanterns are made in school. The walk 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.

Often in some German regions (e.g., Bergisch land or Rhineland) children procession moves 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.

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