Well, what does “November… Lanterns, stuffed Geese and Carnival” mean exactly?
You guessed right, St Martins Day – Nov 11th is around the corner. Just about every German kindergarten is busily crafting lanterns with the little ones, songs are being learned and practiced and the outlook for a huge population of geese is looking pretty grim right about now.
St. Martin’s Day, also known as the Feast of St. Martin, Martinstag or Martinmas, the Feast of St Martin of Tours, is a time for feasting celebrations. It is the time when autumn wheat seeding is completed.
Historically, hiring fairs were held where farm laborers would seek new posts. The actual feast day is on November 11, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clothed me.”
Ok, now we got the History down, but what is going on?
Traditionally on St Martins day, or around that day. Children meet with their Kindergartens or primary schools to walk processions holding their crafted lanterns. No one really knows how the lanterns started but they are here to stay and many Germans have a wide verity of them (from the past years) stashed in their basement. Outfitted with electric light sticks or the more traditional candle and wooden stick these treasures are proudly presented by their little crafters.
You are worried about the open flame of the candle?
A St Martins parade is not complete without at least one frantic parent stomping on a burning lantern trying to put out the flames and the child standing next to it in tears.
The kids usually follow a man on a horse dressed as St. Martin to a central meeting place. On the way they sing songs about St Martin or Lanterns. Once at the meeting place, a bonfire is usually lit and pretzels or little sweet rolls are given out to the kids and hot beverages like tea or Gluehwein for the parents.
After the procession is done, it’s time to go home for a traditional St Martins meal. In many areas the preferred meat is goose.
The St Martins Goose is usually served stuffed with chestnuts and a side of red cabbage, potato dumplings and gravy.
BUT… for a huge part of Germany the 11th of November starts something entirely different!
On the 11th of November at exactly 11:11 in the morning Fasching starts!
Also called the 5th season, Fasching will go on all the way till February, sometimes even March. It starts with the carnival clubs’ meetings now, planning, elections of the prince, princess and the main staff.
After the official initiation in November, Carnival begins on New Year’s Day or immediately following Twelfth Night (the Festival of the Three Kings or Magi, also called Epiphany), on January 6, and ends with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. At those jolly-good-time parties, dances and balls, folks wear “Kappen” (fools caps) and often masks. In each city a Prinz Karneval, referred to as “His Crazy Highness,” is elected to head with his princess or other retinue a court of fools and lead the frolics. On Shrove Tuesday the crazy couple will move with their retinue into the Rathaus (City Hall) to govern until midnight, when the merrymaking and foolishness comes to a sudden halt, yielding to the observation of Lent.
Before the season culminates in the Rose Monday Parade, there are balls, parties and the famous “Büttensitzungen.” “Bütten” (barrel) speakers are expected to be hilariously funny, witty and clever. The speeches range from funny to satirical and highly political. The speakers enjoy “Narrenfreiheit” (fools’ liberty), the license of a court jester who had the liberty to speak unpopular truths as long as they were cloaked into the forms of jokes. Such an evening is further enlivened by skits, dance entertainment, music, food and song.
So, as you can see, November is a busy month….
Bild von worldvoyager auf Pixabay