Saint Martin’s lanterns


November 11th is Saint Martin’s holiday. Germans consider it a good opportunity for their children to learn how to share their belongings with others.

- To share generously
- To offer without expecting return

How many times have we said that to our children, hoping that they will understand and start doing so? A very good opportunity for “revision” in many European countries is the 11th of November and the St. Martin feast at schools. Martin was a simple and kind man who shared his belongings and supported those in need. It is said that during a blizzard he cut his cloak in two, in order to clothe a naked poor man and thus saved him from cold. Indeed, El Greco has devoted a painting to him, which shows St. Martin on his horse to tear the cloak with his sword and give it to the beggar.

How is this day celebrated? Preparations start already one month before. Children with the help of their teachers make and decorate their lanterns (Laternen), which they light up that day, in order to symbolise light and hope that offering gives to people in need. At the same time, they learn songs, which talk about the light on the sky from the moon and stars and on the earth from the kids’ lanterns. They sing too about the act of love of Martin, about how beautiful it is to become a united voice, which glorifies the value of offering. They walk altogether, holding proudly their parents in one hand and in the other their lantern. The feast takes place in the afternoon, so that it is dark enough. The atmosphere is unctuous. The picture of the lanterns twinkling in the dark and the children voices filling the streets with songs is magical. After the celebration, a Kipferl (sweet bread, in croissant shape) is given to each child. It has to cut it in small pieces and hand it out to the members of his family, making practice of the celebration meaning. The lanterns go out. We all return at home with our hearts feeling warm, despite the cold.

Greek Mum Correspondent: Chrysoula Koutsouri, Munich (

El Greco-San Martín



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