Saint Martin’s Day



“On November 11th, we celebrate Saint Martin’s Day. Now, we just have a big dinner that night with whoever is home. I have 3 younger sisters, but one of my sisters and I are already in college, so we don’t go home for it. So, it’s just my parents and two youngest sisters that celebrate it. It’s not as big of a deal to us now as my dad told me it was to his family growing up in Germany. It is a holiday that ends with a huge feast, usually with a cooked goose, at dinnertime. Before November 11th, the children all build their own lanterns. There are lantern parades in towns and cities all over the place, kind of like America on Thanksgiving or St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes, onlookers will give the children candy. I want to go to Germany to observe this holiday at least once in my life.”




Saint Martin’s Day celebrates Saint Martin of Tours, the third Bishop of Tours. He is remembered as a very altruistic man who, as legend recalls, saved a homeless man in the middle of winter from freezing to death by giving him his cloak. Now, the tradition is to mainly eat a goose at dinnertime, which even in America, my informant’s family adheres to. This is due to honoring the tradition of payday, which in the medieval tax system in Germany, was November 11. Tax debts were usually paid with a goose and so nowadays, Saint Martin’s memory is celebrated by eating a goose with the whole family. One good thing about customs and traditions aimed toward young children is that the customs become ingrained in their mind, even if they don’t know the meanings behind them. However, as they grow older, they will discover the meanings and that will give their favorite traditions some background and make it all the more special. It is a good way to teach children about their culture in a fun way. My informant even stated that she would like to go to Germany, where her father was born, to observe this holiday and join in on the festivities.