Martinstag, Laternenumzug and Martinsgans

On November 11, Martinstag is celebrated in Germany with many traditions.  Martin of Tours was the third Bishop of Tours in France during the 4th century AD/CE. There are many legends woven around his person.  For instance, when he still was a Roman soldier, he cut his cloak into halves to keep a beggar warm during a snow storm. He was an humble man, and when he was to be made bishop, he felt unworthy, and hid in a barn.  A gaggle of geese honked so loudly that he was found and installed as bishop.

In most German-speaking countries the feast day of St. Martin is celebrated by children with a Laternenumzug, where children dress up in costumes and have a Lantern parade with hand crafted candle-lit lanterns made from colorful paper.  Adults traditionally commemorate the day by eating a roasted goose. This is also dates back to a last feast day in medieval times before the long fast to Christmas.

Our German school in The Woodlands celebrated Martinstag with the parents. The students made colorful lanterns in the weeks before, practiced traditional German lantern songs and a play of St. Martin. They processed into the darkened church with their candle-lit (LED) lanterns, singing “Laterne, Laterne . . . .” The youngest children put on a Lichtertanz with music and sang  “Leise, leise . . . .” Then the older children enacted Martin and his Roman soldiers, as he encountered the beggar, and then the time Martin, the monk, was found hiding in the goose stable to avoid becoming a bishop. The students processed out into the common area, singing “Ich geh mit meiner Laterne . . . .” Afterwards the parents, teachers and students enjoyed Martinsgebaeck and Gaensewein.