St Martin’s Day & DIY Lantern

One of the great things about being an expat family, is that you get to celebrate two sets of festivals throughout the year – those of the country you’re in, and those of the one you’re not. One of those celebrated in Germany that is unknown in the UK, is St Martin, which falls on the 11th November. The festival is dedicated to St Martin of Tours. The most famous legend surrounding him is when he was a Roman solider cut his cloak in half to share it with a beggar who was freezing to death. On St Martin’s Day,  children go on lantern processions singing songs. Sometimes there is a rider on a horse leading the procession, and often there is a gathering before or after with a bonfire, hot drinks and food.

Although St Martin’s Day isn’t until Sunday, our nursery celebrated last night. The kids had been busy making their own lanterns all week. We started off in the group room where they acted out the story of St Martin, then there was a gathering in the garden with a mini bonfire, hot chocolate and Bretzeln, before we set off on a procession round the block with our lanterns.

Making your own lantern is really easy. For the one the boy made in his group, all you need is a round cardboard box of the kind that those little cheese corners come in, some parchment paper and paint.

The kids painted the parchment paper, which was then taped into a cylinder shape with the two halves of the cardboard box to keep its shape and strengthen it. The top half of the box was cut out so that you could hang a light into it, and then all you need to do is attach some string or wire to hang it up on.

In Germany, in the weeks leading up to St Martin’s Day you can buy these handy lantern sticks everywhere, with battery operated lights. You can also get wooden sticks which take a real candle, but since the boy’s hand-eye co-ordination is still a bit erratic I thought the electronic version would be safer.

Here’s a final picture from the nursery garden, with the boy and his lantern watching the  mini bonfires. Overall we had a lovely evening, though sadly the husband arrived just as we had finished, as the procession had started early. So we carried our lit lantern all the way home for him.

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