St. Martins Day

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St. Martins Day
St. Martins Day

November 11th marks St. Martin's Day, a Christian feast day honoring the death and burial of Saint Martin of Tours in 397 AD. Also recognized as Martinmas and historically referred to as Old Halloween or Old Hallowmas Eve.

In Germany, St. Martin's Day is a religious observance emphasizing modesty and altruism, qualities closely tied to the revered saint. Widely embraced by children, the festivities include nighttime processions culminating in bonfires. Subsequently, children engage in door-to-door singing, receiving candy, money, and other treats in return.

Historical Background

  1. Saint Martin: Saint Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who later became a monk and bishop in the 4th century. He is best known for a famous legend where he encountered a beggar in need during a cold winter night. Martin cut his cloak in half and shared it with the beggar, demonstrating his compassion and generosity.

  2. Feast Day: November 11th marks the anniversary of Saint Martin's death in 397 AD. The day is celebrated with various traditions and customs in different countries, particularly in Europe.

Traditions and Customs

  1. Feasts and Festivities: St. Martin's Day is often celebrated with communal feasts, where roast goose is a traditional dish in many European countries. This feast symbolizes the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of winter.

  2. Lantern Parades: In some regions, especially in Germany, children participate in lantern processions on the evening of November 11th. They carry handmade lanterns, often shaped like stars, moons, or Saint Martin riding on a horse, singing songs and celebrating light in the darkness of approaching winter.

  3. Charitable Acts: In honor of Saint Martin's legacy of compassion, St. Martin's Day is also a time for charitable activities. People donate food, clothing, or money to those in need, reflecting the spirit of sharing and caring.

Cultural Significance

  1. Harvest Festival: St. Martin's Day is considered a harvest festival in many regions, marking the end of the agricultural season and the beginning of winter preparations.

  2. Religious Observance: Apart from its cultural significance, St. Martin's Day is observed as a religious feast day in the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations. Churches may hold special services to commemorate Saint Martin's life and teachings.

  3. Symbolism of Light: The lantern processions and the tradition of lighting bonfires on St. Martin's Day symbolize the victory of light over darkness and are often seen as a prelude to the upcoming Advent season in the Christian calendar.


St. Martin's Day is a celebration that blends Christian religious observance with cultural traditions centered around generosity, community, and the transition from autumn to winter. It honors the legacy of Saint Martin of Tours and continues to be observed with feasting, lantern processions, and acts of charity across Europe and in other parts of the world where his influence has been felt.