After Halloween ends, German children have another opportunity to do more trick or treating with St. Martin’s Day. On the 11th of November each year, children carry candle-lit lanterns and sing “lantern songs.” Why, you may ask? In order to celebrate St. Martin! They walk around the streets in a procession after darkness falls. This procession often ends with a bonfire, after which they go from door to door singing songs. 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! The children have fun, and the elders enjoy the beauty of the homemade or purchased lanterns and the songs sung. The lanterns, in turn, may be used to store the candy and treats until they return home!
A Sweet Treat
Another special treat awaits the children at home: the Weckmann! This is a sweet bread roll shaped into a gingerbread man form. The gingerbread man has raisin eyes and a white clay pipe in his mouth. Children enjoy the shape of the the treat as well as the taste! The Weckmann is typically sold at any bakery or, even better, made at home by mom. Check out the recipe for homemade Weckmann here!
Duck, Duck… Goose!
Besides the Weckmann, the main culinary dish of St. Martin’s Day is the goose! Legend has it that, while hiding, St. Martin was betrayed by geese squawking! He was hiding in a stall in order to avoid being appointed the Bishop of Tours. Thus, in revenge for the betrayal St. Martin ate a goose! However, there is a much better reason that the first goose of the season is eaten on St. Martin’s Day. This is because 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 crispiness on the outside. Meanwhile, the rich and crispy skin means that the flesh bastes itself. Cook tasty liver pate and rye breadcrumb stuffing balls as wonderful sides. For a special side dish, add halved fresh peaches baked and glazed with sugar and redcurrant onto the goose! Check out 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 later 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 coldness.
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 harvesting season for Germany.