Local children honor Saint Martin with a torchlight procession

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany-- Local children carry colorful lanterns as they march through the streets of Spangdahlem village in a past Saint Martin procession. This year, parades are scheduled to take place tonight through next week with the dates and times varying from town to town. In some towns, firefighters lead the parade with torches in hand, followed by the town band and a man portraying St. Martin, clad in the uniform of a Roman legionnaire, on horseback. The colorfully illuminated processions end with a huge bonfire. "St. Martin" then encourages the children and hands out large sugar pretzels. The Saint Martin parade is a perfect event for small children with their parents. Local villages invite the American neighbors to participate in this traditional local event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Iris Reiff)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany-- Local children carry colorful lanterns as they march through the streets of Spangdahlem village in a past Saint Martin procession. This year, parades are scheduled to take place tonight through next week with the dates and times varying from town to town. In some towns, firefighters lead the parade with torches in hand, followed by the town band and a man portraying St. Martin, clad in the uniform of a Roman legionnaire, on horseback. The colorfully illuminated processions end with a huge bonfire. "St. Martin" then encourages the children and hands out large sugar pretzels. The Saint Martin parade is a perfect event for small children with their parents. Local villages invite the American neighbors to participate in this traditional local event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Iris Reiff)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Each November, local townspeople host a colorful torchlight procession in honor of St. Martin.

St. Martin's Day is Nov. 11, but the dates for celebrations vary from town to town and sometimes take place days before or after. Germans celebrate St. Martin's Day with a procession where children carry candles or battery-operated lanterns through the town.

The children sing St. Martin songs. "Sankt Martin ist ein guter Mann," or St. Martin is a good man, is one of the many songs parents practice with their children to prepare them for the procession.
In some towns, firefighters lead the parade with torches in hand, followed by the town band and a man portraying St. Martin, clad in the uniform of a Roman legionnaire, on horseback. The colorfully illuminated procession ends with a huge bonfire. "St. Martin" then encourages the children and hands out large sugar pretzels.

In some towns, the traditional ceremony ends with an opportunity to win a goose, the popular "St. Martin's Gans," and other prizes, usually at a well-known spot in town, a hall or local fire department. Raffle tickets are usually sold by local firefighters. A limited number of tickets for the goose raffle can also be purchased at the fire department prior to the raffle.

The goose became associated with St. Martin's Day because this time of year is when the goose-fattening period ends. After the summer harvest, farmers let the geese find their food on mowed fields. The only cost to the farmer is tending to the geese, but as soon as it gets cold, farmers sell or kill the fattened geese. Parsons demanded geese as payment for the taxes due to them at this time, and the custom developed into a tradition of eating goose on St. Martin's Day.

Who is the man celebrated every year?

According to legend, St. Martin was born early in the fourth century during the military administration of the Emperor Constantine in Szombathel, Hungary. He led a Christian life growing up and served his time in the Roman army. Although other officers mistreated soldiers and slaves, St. Martin distributed what he could save from his pay to the poor.

While riding outside the gates of Amiens, he encountered a freezing beggar who asked for help, but Martin had already given all his pay to the poor. He drew his sword, slit his tunic in two and gave half to the beggar. The legend states the following night, Christ appeared to St. Martin and said, "What you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me." Although Martin was rather modest, his devotion, kindness and fairness were such that his fame spread throughout the country, and he was soon appointed as Bishop of Tours in France for 25 years until he died at age 82.
SAINT MARTIN PARADES

St. Martin parades in the Eifel will take place on the following dates in various locations:
Most parades begin between 6 and 7 p.m. Since it often gets cold at night this time of the year, it's advisable to wear warm clothes or bring an umbrella.

- Nov. 8 at 5:45 in Landscheid starting at the Grundschule or Elementary school
- Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. in Dreis starting at the local church
- Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. in Osann-Monzel starting at Grundschule elementary school
- Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. in Greverath starting at "Zum Weissenstein"
- Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Gladbach starting at the local church following a short church service
- Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in Wittlich starting at the Saint Markus church
- Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in Wittlich-Wengerohr
- Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Beilingen starting at the local church
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Arenrath starting at the Feuerwehrhaus or local fire station
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Bruch starting at Salmstrasse
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Niederkail
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Niersbach starting at Toepferstrasse
- Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in Sehlem starting at Bergstrasse
- Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in Herforst starting at the local church following a short church service
- Nov. 9 at 6:30 in Preist starting at the local church
- Nov. 9 at 6:30 in Preist starting at the local church
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Gransdorf starting at the Fire Department
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Bitburg-Stahl starting at the Gemeindehaus or community hall
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Wittlich-Bombogen starting at the Feuerwehr or fire department
- Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in Wittlich-Luexem starting from the Festplatz or festival grounds
- Nov. 10 at 5:15 p.m. in Bergweiler starting at the local church
- Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in Dodenburg and Heckenmuenster starting a "Im Bengfeld"
- Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in Heidweiler starting at the Fire Station
- Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in Hupperath starting at the local church
- Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in Auw an der Kyll starting at the Gemeindehaus or community hall
- Nov. 10 at Bitburg-Biersdorf am See, Niederweiler and Wiersdorf starting at 6 p.m. from Kornmarktstrasse, across from the "Haus Eifelblick" in Biersdorf.
- Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in Bitburg-Erdorf starting at the Saint Laurentius church
- Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in Bitburg-Masholder starting at Brueckenstrasse
- Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. in Spangdahlem starting at the local church in "Spang"
- Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. in Binsfeld starting at the local church following a short church service
- Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. in Altrich starting at the local church
- Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in Dierscheid starting at the Fire Station
- Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. in Klausen starting at the local church
- Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. in Burg/Salm

For more information on St. Martin parades in the local area, contact a German friend or colleague or the local mayor of the community where you wish to attend the parade. German communities invite American elementary school and kindergarten children with their parents to join in the fun. St. Martin lanterns are available at many larger German stores now through next week.