Germany – Why celebrate St. Martin's Day?

November. It is getting dark early, and with the change of the season there are lots of traditional festivities to celebrate in Germany. On 11th November each year, people celebrate St. Martin’s eve. In the days leading to St Martin's day, children craft their own lanterns, which they carry on the day on their way to a massive bonfire. At the beginning of the procession children get a golden brown baked sweet brioche pretzel. Most often it dangles from a red string, helping them to put the sweet treat safely around their necks, so their hands are free to carry the lantern.

Who is this St. Martin guy?

What is this all about and who is this St. Martin guy you might ask yourself right now. St. Martin of Tours born in 316 AD was a roman soldier for a few years, and one day, when he rode his horse through ice and snow, he saw a beggar on the wayside who showed first signs of frostbite. Without even thinking about it, St Martin took his sword, and cut his bright red and warm coat in half, to give one of the two pieces to the beggar. Before the grateful chap could say thank you, St Martin already was again on his way.

The celebration of St. Martin’s eve - sheer excitement

The actor on horseback dressed as St. Martin guides the pretty excited crowd and their lanterns to a huge bonfire, where a brass band is playing. Kids are excited that there is a bonfire, parents are excited because their kids are holding a lantern close to the open fire. An actor dressed as a beggar is sitting next to the bonfire. Everyone but him is wrapped up warm. The firemen are excited because no one yet set fire to their coat. While the audience witnesses the parting of the cloak, they sing loudly. There are foggy little clouds above people's heads everywhere. The beggar puts the cloak around his shoulders.


St. Martin

St. Martin St. Martin, St. Martin rode through snow and wind, his horse, which carried him away quickly. St. Martin rode with easy courage; his coat covered him warm and good.

In the snow sat a poor man, clothes he had not, he had rags to wear: "Oh help me in my destitution, otherwise the frost is my death!"

St. Martin, St. Martin, St. Martin pulls on the reins, his horse stands still with the brave man. St. Martin with the sword divides the warm coat without delay.

St. Martin, St. Martin, St. Martin quietly gives the half away, the beggar wants to quickly thank him but St. Martin rides away in haste with his piece of the coat.


St. Martin's eve is a reminder of how lovely it is to share and to be courteous. Have you ever heard of St Martin’s eve? Is there a similar tradition in your part of the woods? Looking forward to hearing from you.

From Berlin with love