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Martinstag - St. Martin’s Day

Martin of Tours

German Holidays/Traditions in November:

Also see our Feiertag-Kalender, a calendar of official holidays in German-speaking countries.

Martinstag (11. November)
November 11th is a special day in the U.S., Canada, and German-speaking Europe, but when North Americans are observing Veterans Day/Remembrance Day, most Austrians and German Catholics are celebrating a different kind of holiday. The Feast of Saint Martin, the Germanic Martinstag celebration, is more like Halloween and Thanksgiving rolled into one. Martinstag or Martini commemorates Sankt Martin (c. 317-397), Bishop of Tours, one of the most revered European saints. The best-known legend connected with Saint Martin is the dividing of the cloak (die Mantelteilung), when Martin, then a soldier in the Roman army, tore his cloak in two to share it with a freezing beggar at Amiens.

In the past, Martinstag was celebrated as the end of the harvest season (thanksgiving). For workers and the poor it was a time when they had a chance to enjoy some of the bounty and get a few crumbs from the nobles' table (“einige Krümel vom reichgedeckten Tisch”). Today in many parts of Europe the feast is still celebrated by processions of children with candle-lit lanterns (Martinslaternen - see the German children's song "Ich geh mit meiner Laterne") and a banquet of roast goose (die Martinsgans). In former times, Martini was the “official” start of winter and the 40-day Christmas fast. Today Martinstag is the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season in German Europe. Because Martinstag has some elements in common with Halloween, see additional vocabulary in our Halloween Glossary and in our Halloween Web links.

SONG > Ich geh mit meiner Laterne - German and English lyrics

WEB > Martin von Tours (in German)
WEB > Martin von Tours (Heiligenlexikon, illustriert)

Tauftag Martin Luthers (11. November)
Although Martinstag is a Catholic observance, German Protestants also consider November 11th a special day. On this date the Protestant reformer (Reformator) Martin Luther (1483-1546) was christened, making it his Tauftag. It is celebrated in much the same way as Martinstag: “Jedes Jahr am 11. November feiern wir den Tauftag Martin Luthers mit Reformationsbrötchen und Lampionumzug.” (Every year on the 11th of November we celebrate the christening day of Martin Luther with Reformation rolls and lantern processions.) In Dresden and most of Saxony (Sachsen) the traditional baked article is known as Reformationsbrot rather than -brötchen because it is a loaf weighing between 500 grams and a full Kilo!

WEB > Reformationsbrötchen (German recipe)
WEB > Reformationsbrot (German recipe - MDR)

Other November Holidays

The American Thanksgiving holiday is observed in November, but Erntedankfest, the German thanksgiving celebration, is observed in late September or early October, closer to Canada's Thanksgiving obervance. (See details on the Oktober page.) For more about the U.S. Thanksgiving, Germany's Erntedankfest and German Thanksgiving vocabulary, see this article: Erntedankfest: Thanksgiving auf Deutsch.

BACK > November Celebrations in Germany

Related Pages

Halloween in Germany
How do Germans celebrate Halloween?

More Customs and Traditions
A month-by-month guide to German celebrations.

German Glossaries
English-German glossaries on a variety of topics.

Daily German
What's today's German word of the day? With sentences in German and English.

German Newsletters
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