Children walking around with fire
For the second evening in a row,on our way home from work, we have seen children walking around downtown with paper lanterns.
When we saw a small boy yesterday, who looked dressed up and was carrying a short pole with a lantern at the end, my first thought was some kind of late Halloween festival. But children walking around with open flames? – that’s a pretty good sign it’s not a new tradition.
Turns out it’s for St. Martin’s Day, which is celebrated on November 11th.
Who is St. Martin?
St. Martin was a knight in Roman times. He was riding his horse when he saw a beggar at the side of the road. The beggar was freezing cold, so St. Martin cut his cloak in two with his sword, and shared it with him.
Slightly longer version, courtesy of BBC:
Martin of Tours was born 316 in Sabarina, Pannonia, Hungary. He joined the Roman army at age 15 and soon became a follower of Christianity. One very cold day, as the story goes, near the city gate of Amiens, France, Martin saw a beggar who was freezing. He took his sword and cut his cloak in two, giving one half to the beggar. The next night, he dreamed he had given his cloak to Jesus.
He later became a monk, and eventually a bishop of the city of Tours, and any legends became associated with with his person and deeds. St Martin was the first person to be canonised who was not a martyr.
As it turns out, there is a slight resemblance to Halloween; children with lanterns go from house to house, singing St. Martin’s Day songs and collecting sweets.
St. Martin’s Day is also closely tied to the goose. Numerous stories/legends abound as to why, but I guess the goose is to St. Martin’s Day what the black cat is to Halloween, except we don’t eat the cat. Yes, they do eat the goose, with red cabbage and dumplings.