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St. Martin's Day in Germany

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. It falls on Sunday, November 11, 2018 and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours in Germany.

Lantern processions are held all around Germany on St. Martin's Day.

©iStockphoto.com/winhorse

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.

Public Life

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.

Background

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

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010ThuNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2011FriNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2012SunNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2013MonNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2014TueNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2015WedNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2016FriNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2017SatNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2018SunNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2019MonNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 
2020WedNov 11St. Martin's DayObservance, Christian 

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