about a dream: Laternenfest

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Yesterday, the girls and I took part in an Austrian and German celebration called Laternenfest. So exciting! We don't have anything like it in America.

It's held in honor of Saint Martin and basically involves the kids making paper lanterns and walking with them while singing songs about St. Martin. According to wikipedia, in some parts of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, kids get candy too, but here in Baden we had a little party at the school with lots of sweets and cookies. St. Martin's feast day is actually on November 11, but the celebration at Maggie's school was yesterday, I'm not sure why. According to wikipedia, Laternenfest is celebrated on the feast of St. Martin, but maybe they do it differently in Lower Austria?

Anyway, the kids started the fest by acting out the story of St. Martin, who apparently gave half of his cloak one cold winter night to a beggar, and later dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the cloak. One little boy from the school rode around on a hobby horse, carrying a wooden sword and wearing a red cloak while one of the teachers played the part of the beggar and the rest of the kids sang a song, presumably about St. Martin. Here:
I'm not sure why my child wasn't chosen to play the part of St. Martin, except perhaps that she's wholly uncooperative and would never in a million years do what they wanted, on top of not speaking German well and being a girl.

But here she is, with her lantern:

And one with Nina!

After the St. Martin re-enactment, we all walked around the block with the lanterns, then headed inside for some punch, cakes, and cookies. Our American chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies were a hit! So was the cookie decorating station:
The cookies were in the shape of geese, which are traditionally eaten at Martinmas (that's what it's really called. It's also a harvest celebration, much like American Thanksgiving). Goose is the traditional dish because according to legend, St. Martin didn't want to be made bishop and so hid somewhere. Unfortunately, he was betrayed by the honking of a goose. Cute.

Also according to wikipedia, the feast of St. Martin/Martinmas marked the beginning of a 40 day fast in the middle ages, which was eventually shortened to our modern advent. It was not related to the 40 days of Lent, though. 40 is just one of those commonly occurring Biblical numbers. So, that's interesting.

Unrelated to St. Martin, the kids have no school tomorrow because it's the feast day of St. Leopold III, the patron saint of Austria. Nina's school also has an in-service day on Friday, and Maggie will stay home too, both because her teacher isn't going to be there that day, and because Maggie always stays home when Nina does. So it's a four-day weekend for us!

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