Full of candy, scared and spooked, disguised as a creature of the night…that's Halloween sorted. The festival is very popular in the English speaking world. But Germany's favourite event when the world gets so much darker is St Martin's Day. Growing up, we never did anything for Halloween but instead were busy working on our little lanterns for the walk.
So what is St Martin's Day all about? It is the remembrance of a legend in which a knight called Martin is riding along a path on a cold November night. He comes past a beggar by the roadside and even though he's got nothing on him, he decides to help the poor man out by ripping his cloak in two and giving half to the beggar. Well, this is the version of the story that I remember from Kindergarten anyway. If you read up on it on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_of_Tours), the tale becomes a LOT more religious. What is remembered though is the tale of generosity and sharing with those in need.
St Martin's Day is celebrated in Germany around 11 November. Children will build themselves little lanterns and go on a walk to a bonfire site with them. Sometimes, the walking group is led by a "St Martin" on a horse, and often they are accompanied by a local band playing the famous St Martin's songs. If you want to celebrate St Martin's Day too, you can build little lanterns, sing a song with the children (or with your mates!) or bake a lovely Weckmann.
St Martin's Songs
The easiest song to learn is "Laterne, Laterne", with its three lines of lyrics. They go
Sonne, Mond und Sterne
Brenne auf mein Licht, Brenne auf mein Licht
Aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht!
(Lantern, Sun, Moon and Stars. Burn up my light, but not my dear lantern!)
Other great songs for this season:
- "Ich geh' mit meiner Laterne", which is my definite favourite, and
- "St Martin", which is probably where I get my version of his story from.
Weckmänner and Sugar Pretzels
Yum! Eating these around the bonfire with a cup of Glühwein will get you in the mood for German Christmas better than any sausage sandwich ever could.
Here is a Weckmann recipe in German, with thanks to the website chefkoch.de. How much do you understand?
1 Kilo Mehl, 1 Würfel Hefe, 150 Gramm Zucker, 90 Gramm Butter, 1 Teelöffel Salz und 500ml warme Milch.
Zuerst das Mehl, die Hefe und 125ml Milch vermischen und 10 Minuten gehen lassen.
Butter, Zucker, Salz und restliche Milch auflösen und alles mit dem gegangenen Teig verrühren. Aus dem Teig Weckmänner formen und 10 Minuten gehen lassen.
Mit Milch bestreichen und 15-20 Minuten bei 220 Grad backen.
You can also find an English language version of the Weckmann recipe online.