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St. Martin's Day (Martinstag) on November 11 is a religious observance in Germany that is particularly popular with children. It is dedicated to St. Martin of Tours and celebrates modesty and altruism - both values commonly associated with the Saint. As the holiday was traditionally followed by a fast that lasted until Christmas, many traditons on St. Martin's Day center on food.
Is St. Martin's Day a Public Holiday?
St. Martin's Day is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.
What Do People Do?
Many children build their own lanterns in the run-up to November 11. In the evening on St. Martin's Day there are lantern processions (Martinsumzüge or Laternenumzüge) in towns and cities all over Germany. Often they are lead by an actor impersonating the Saint, usually dressed up as a Roman soldier riding on a horse. At the end of the procession people gather around a large bonfire to sing songs dedicated to St. Martin, eat sweet pastries and drink mulled wine (Glühwein). Many Germans celebrate St. Martin's Day with a festive meal where roasted goose or duck (Martinsgans) is traditionally served as the main course.
St. Martin's Day is not a public holiday in Germany. Offices, banks, schools and business are open as usual. Public transport runs on a normal schedule. The lantern processions may cause minor delays.
Saint Martin of Tours (316 - 297 CE) initially worked as a Roman legionary but was later appointed the third Bishop of Tours. According to lore, he was a modest and altruistic man. The legend about his saving a homeless person from freezing to death by giving him half of his cloak is known to children in all parts of Germany.
The tradition to eat a goose (today often replaced by a duck) on St. Martin's Day is thought to be based on the medieval tax system. November 11 was pay day, and often the tax debt was paid with a goose. It is believed that this is also the reason why geese play such an important role in legends about the Saint. Another popular story is about a flock of geese who betrayed Martin's hiding place as he was trying to hide from the people of Tours when they wanted to make him a bishop.
St. Martin's Day Observances
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|2020||Wed||Nov 11||St. Martin's Day||Observance, Christian|
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|2025||Tue||Nov 11||St. Martin's Day||Observance, Christian|
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