Saturday, 7 November 2009

St Martin's Zug

April's lanternApril goes to a little German playgroup two mornings a week and it was through this that we were invited to join in a German custom - the 'St Martin's Zug' (Zug = Train).

Every year the young children of each neighbourhood gather with their parents at twilight, carrying lanterns. Here is April with the colourful tissue paper lantern she made at playgroup.

At the appointed time we met with the other parents at the local church, perplexed as to what might happen next. While we waited for whatever was going to happen, to happen, Simon had a conversation with a bold young German girl (about 8 perhaps?) who wanted to practise her English by asking the vocab for different 3-dimensional shapes.

St Martin on horsebackI stopped listening in when I looked up and was surprised to see a man dressed as a Roman soldier, riding towards us on a white horse. Apparently, he represented 'St Martin' of the 'St Martin's train'.

The St Martin's trainSoon our number was swelled by parade guides carrying flaming torches, a police escort and the city's official brass band.

When everyone was assembled we formed a very long column and we began to parade down the middle of the road. We heard music, laughter and people singing the song, 'Laterne, laterne' (Lantern, lantern). We did this for about half an hour, snaking around the block.

St Martin's fireEventually we arrived at the local park where a massive bonfire had been set alight. A man spoke about the importance of St Martin and led a prayer. Then the band started up again and people were invited to partake of the mulled wine.

By this time our little ones were shattered, so we headed home, pleased to have been involved in this event and very proud of April for her lantern-bearing duties.

More information:

St Martin was a Roman soldier who supposedly shared his cloak with a beggar during a snowstorm. He is also known as 'Martin of Tours'. St Martin's Day is celebrated on 11th November in Catholic parts of Germany. There are also many other celebrations across Europe to celebrate St Martin around this date. More about St Martin...

Video of the St Martin's Train Cologne 2008...

Video of the Laterne, laterne song...

Here is my description of the St Martin's Festival 2008...

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