I hope everyone had a spectacular Halloween and back home you're all enjoying your "No-school-vember." *Glares because we don't have this in Germany.*
I'm just going to be blunt here...Germans don't know how to celebrate Halloween. Back in the US we have Halloween movies, costumes, pumpkin carving, and trick or treating. Halloween here in Germany is just an excuse to throw a party and egg someones house. I'm not really upset about this fact because Germans have other holidays. I definitely missed my normal traditions but today I learned about a new holiday that is much more important here in Germany. St. Martin's Day!
The official St. Martin's Day is on November 11th but for some reason we're celebrating it now here in Schiefbahn. This religious holiday originated from a story about you guessed it, Saint Martin. The legend goes that Saint Martin was going on horseback through a snowstorm when he came upon a beggar. He cut his cloak in half to share it with the beggar so he wouldn't die from the cold. That night he dreamt that Jesus was wearing the half cloak and had blessed him for his generosity.
Historically St. Martin's Day was a day of feasting. It celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of harvesting. In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all week days from Saint Martin's Day to Epiphany (the feast of baptism on January 6th). This period of time was similar to the fast of Lent and was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin's Lent). This long period of fasting was later shortened and renamed "Advent" by the church.
Today, St. Martin's Day is celebrated in a different way. A bonfire is lit on the night of the holiday to symbolize the light that holiness brings to the darkness just as St. Martin brought hope to the beggar that night in the snowstorm. Children walk in processions carrying lanterns which also symbolize that light. The children walk usually from church to the public square and a man on horseback dressed like St. Martin accompanies them. Here in Schiefbahn the children walk house to house and sing Martin songs and often get candy in return (similar to Halloween). After the procession everyone meets in the city center for the bonfire and eats Weckmänner (a sweet bread shaped like St. Martin).
I enjoyed researching the history of this holiday and of course experiencing it as well. Discovering these little differences is one of my favorite parts of exchange. The United States has Halloween and Germany has St. Martin's Day and that's just fine.