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St Martin's Day

In Germany, it is traditional to celebrate St Martin's Day on 11 November, and many different customs have sprung up around this festival.

Children hold lanterns during a St. Martin's Day procession in Berlin
Children hold lanterns during a St. Martin's Day procession in Berlin© picture alliance / dpa

One tradition is the lantern procession; when the sun sets, young and old come together to walk through the town, singing songs and carrying colourful lanterns. Children often make their lanterns themselves at school. The processions are sometimes led by a rider dressed up as St Martin, who sits on a white horse wearing the costume of a Roman soldier with armour, sword and red cape.

St Martin is famous for the story of donating his cloak to a beggar - the story goes that St Martin saw a beggar in the street, freezing in the cold, and decided to cut his cloak in half and give it to the beggar. The processions end with the reenactment of this story.

A bonfire is then lit, and while everybody is gathered around the fire, "Stutenkerle" (literally "breadmen") made of sweet bread with raisins are handed out to the children.