After Halloween ends, German children have a second opportunity for collecting sweets and treats. On the 11th of November each year, St. Martin’s Day, German children carry candle-lit lanterns and sing ‘lantern songs’ in celebration of the saint. These children’s processions begin as darkness falls, and often end with a bonfire. Then, the children go from door to door singing, and, much like trick or treating in the USA, the children are given candy, money and other treats. However, to get these rewards they must first sing! All in all it makes for a beautiful evening — the children have fun, and the elders enjoy the beauty of the lanterns (homemade or purchased) and the songs.
Man With a Pipe – A Sweet Treat
Another special treat awaits the children at home: the Weckmann! This is a sweet bread roll shaped like a man, similar to a gingerbread man. Typically the Weckmann has raisin eyes and a white clay pipe in his mouth, and is sold at any bakery or, even better, made at home by mom. Children enjoy the shape of the the treat as well as the taste! Check out the recipe for homemade Weckmann here!
Duck, Duck… Goose!
Besides the Weckmann, the other classic food of St. Martin’s Day is the goose! Legend has it that, while in hiding, St. Martin was betrayed by geese squawking. He had hidden in a stall in order to avoid being appointed Bishop of Tours, and in revenge for the betrayal St. Martin ate a goose. However, there is another very good reason that the first goose of the season is eaten on St. Martin’s Day. They are simply ready for harvesting at this time of the year. Moreover, the eggs and fat were historically used for baking. Additionally, the feathers were used for pillows and featherbeds and to create a sort of Christmas tree!
Roast goose frequently appears on menus all over Germany, and with good reason. Its dark, delicious and tender meat cooks to a light crispness on the outside. Meanwhile, the rich and crispy skin means that the flesh bastes itself. A tasty liver pate and rye breadcrumb stuffing make wonderful sides. For a special side dish, try adding halved fresh peaches baked and glazed with sugar and red currant onto the goose. You’ll fin our recipe for this delicious roast goose here!
A Youthful Holiday
St. Martin’s Day is one of the most popular saint’s days in Germany! It is primarily celebrated by youth and rural populations in Germany. Martin of Tours was born in the 4th Century Current Era and started out as a Roman soldier. Later in his life he found Christianity and became a monk. Because of his exemplary way of life he was appointed Bishop of Tours (against his will). Many legends surround his life, which is possibly why children love his saint day so much. The most famous tale tells how he cut his cloak in half in order to share it with a beggar who was dying of the cold.
November 11 is also the official start of Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht. These holidays all begin eleven minutes past eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month! It is at this time that carnival clubs and neighborhood groups start their preparations for the carnival season. This fun season then culminates with huge Fasching (Mardi Gras) parades in February. St. Martin’s Day also marks the end of the agrarian year and the start of the harvest season for Germany.