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St. Martin’s Day Celebrations in Germany

St. Martin’s Day or Martinstag is one of the most popular saint’s days in Germany, particularly celebrated by children and young people.

Martin of Tours was born in the 4th Century and started out as a Roman soldier, later becoming a monk, and because of his exemplary way of life was later appointed Bishop of Tours. Many legends surround his life, the most famous of which tells how he cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar who was dying in the cold.

Taking place on November 11th, the day is particularly popular with children, with many German schools celebrating the life of the Saint through reenactments and plays. Later in the evening children carry candle-lit lanterns (usually homemade) and sing “lantern songs” in celebration of St. Martin’s Day, as they walk around the streets in a procession after darkness falls. The procession often ends with a bonfire after which they may go from door to door singing songs. Much like trick or treating in the USA, the children are given gingerbread men, money and other goodies as a reward for their singing and the beauty of their homemade or purchased lanterns.

One of the most popular St. Martin’s Day children songs is “Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne” or “I walk with my lantern”:

“Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne
Und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne,
Hier unten, da leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus,
Wir geh’n nach Haus,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum.

English Translation

I walk with my lantern
And my lantern goes with me.
Up above the stars are glowing,
And glowing, too, are we.
My light is out,
We’re going home,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum.”

 

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