Sunday, November 11, 2018

Night of Lights


In 2010, when I was still writing for Vision and Verb, I wrote this post about a special November tradition we have in Germany. Since we just celebrated this tradition with the children's classes at German Language School yesterday evening I thought it a good opportunity to post it on my blog as well.


November is a pretty gray month in Germany. Days of fog follow days of overcast skies, with the sun only making rare appearances. Except for the first day of the month (All Saints) when in the Catholic parts of the country candles appear on gravesites in the cemeteries, the month offers mainly dark and somber holidays: Volkstrauertag (our kind of Memorial Day), Buß- und Bettag (Day of Prayer and Repentance, a protestant holiday that is not an official holiday any longer) and Day of the Dead which also marks the end of the church year. All these holidays are very subdued and perfectly fit the somber mood of a German November.

However, almost midthrough the month, on November 11th, lights glow in the dark accompanied by the sweet little voices of children happily singing the old folksong “Ich geh mit meiner Laterne” (I walk with my lantern). Yes, it is Martinstag (St. Martin’s Day), not an official holiday at all, but a beautiful tradition. On this day, children all over Germany remember St. Martin of Tours, who was a soldier in the Roman Army (around 330 A.D.) and became famous when he cut his woolen coat in two parts with his sword and gave one part to a beggar. He later left the army and became a monk.

Today, children create their own paper lanterns, often in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school. These lanterns come in all shapes and sizes, from simple to elaborate – and in the evening of November 11th as well as the days around this date, the young children go out in the streets with their lit lanterns and sing those old folksongs. It is a sweet sound in all the hectic day-to-day noise, a moment to pause and listen to the beautiful tunes, look at the young faces and notice the enthusiasm and joy the children show.

They bring light into our night, music to our ears and joy to our hearts.

A beautiful tradition that I hope will never vanish.



13 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

A very beautiful tradition indeed. One I have never seen, and would love to.
And how I miss Vision and Verb.

My name is Erika. said...

It's wonderful to read about this holiday. I didn't know about it and I think it sounds so wonderful to imagine little children with paper lanterns lighting the long dark nights of this month. Hugs-Erika

Red Rose Alley said...

I can just see the little children walking along singing their song and holding their lantern. What a precious sight. This is a cute lantern you have shared with us. When you mentioned All Saints Day, I smiled, as I'm very familiar with this day, and have many beloved Saints that are special to me. : ) St. Martin's Day sounds like a wonderful tradition in Germany. My children are part German on their father's side, so this was interesting to me.

~Sheri

Jeanie said...

Thank you for telling us about this. I had no idea -- I've never heard of this holiday but in my mind I can just see the little ones with their colorful lanterns. How beautiful.

Sarah Huizenga said...

Thank you for sharing this history and tradition with all of us. I hate to see all old ways lost, it is good to carry our heritage forward with us.

Cheri said...

Four years of German in high school with a teacher who actually was German and he never once mentioned this celebration - it sounds lovely!

Evi Erlinda said...

lovely tradition.
greeting - evi erlinda

Karen Lakis said...

I love that you are helping to keep this tradition alive. It seems that so many traditions are getting lost in our fast-paced modern-day life. November is a mostly gray month around here, also. I would enjoy seeing children carrying lanterns and singing folk songs!

windrock studio said...

So happy you shared this again right now, just lovely. I still miss our V&V days.

La Vie Quotidienne said...

this is such a lovely tradition. I wish that we did something similiar here. The lanterns are so cute!

krishna said...

That is a beautiful tradition..

Magic Love Crow said...

A very beautiful tradition!!! Big Hugs!

Lotta said...

Oh I remember this Carola. A wonderful tradition.