Monday, November 12, 2012

St. Martin's Day

St. Martin's Day was yesterday, November 11. In largely-Catholic southern Germany, where I live, it's a real live holiday; no way was I going to miss this little slice of German-ness.

Friday evening I met up with a friend a few blocks from my apartment. Because of daylight savings it was already dark, but per German custom, everyone under the age of ten had a little lantern they'd made at school. These lanterns mostly reminded me of the pinatas I made in fourth and fifth grade by gluing a bunch of tissue paper over a balloon and then popping the balloon. In a nod to the modern era, the lanterns are largely lit with little electric lights instead of candles, significantly reducing the episodes of children crying as their art projects go up in flames.

Quick storytime: for anyone who doesn't know, St. Martin of Tours was a fourth-century Roman soldier. One day, riding into a city, he saw a beggar freezing by the side of the road. Possessing a very warm Roman cavalry cloak, St. Martin ripped it in half and gave one half to the beggar. That night he dreamed that Jesus came to him wrapped in the ripped cloak and said to a bunch of angels "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me." According to the bastion of information Wikipedia, Martin became a Christian and then served in the army for two more years, before determining that his faith did not allow him to fight. (Be still my pacifist heart!)* He was charged and jailed for cowardice, and volunteered to go unarmed in front of the troops to prove this wasn't true. Before he had the chance, though, the other army sued for peace and he was let go. Eventually he became a bishop and a hermit, possibly not in that order.   Now German Catholics celebrate his day.

Unfortunately my camera does not do well at all after dark, so what follows is a series of very blurry photos. Let me explain.

No, it is too much. Let me sum up.

People with lanterns and torches. It's ART.
There's St. Martin riding his horse. You can see the horse's legs if you squint.
Here's looking back at all the people parading along with torches and lanterns.

There's the bonfire at which we eventually arrived.
There's the firetruck on hand to make sure the bonfire stayed where it was.

Here's an idea of all the people present. Several hundred, at least.
 After the twenty-minute procession through my neighborhood, we ended up at the park across the street from my apartment and hung out for a while. Sausages were on sale, though I didn't feel like one. The children got free St. Martin-shaped doughnut things. I was too tall to pass for a child. I did, however, try out a St. Martin's roll/bread/pastry thing at a bakery earlier in the week. It was a sweet-ish, eggy bread, kind of like challah or brioche, sometimes with raisins. Very tasty.

* Further evidence of St. Martin being awesome: while a bishop he apparently temporarily convinced the emperor not to kill the members of a sect deemed heretical, because as Christian he was against violence. Of course after the left the imperial presence, the emperor forgot about that and beheaded the Pricillianists anyways. But still, go St. Martin and your peaceful convictions!

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