St Martin’s Day or Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne…


Growing up St Martin’s Day or Martinstag was always the highlight in November in Germany. During this special German holiday, the most beautiful lanterns are on display in store windows and for sale inside. But I think my favorite memory is making them by hand in kindergarten and in elementary school. We would sit around tables filled with construction paper, glue, glitter, stickers, and colored cellophane wrap and create the most amazing lanterns in all shapes, sizes and themes. Anything and everything goes as long as it can hold a candle. Attach a wire and stick to it and on November 11th after the sun went down, we would all bundled up proudly parade them around town and sing songs.

In many parts of Germany, the cheery procession through streets, parks and up hill tops would end up in a big Martinsfeuer (Martin bonfire) where parents are treated to cups of warming Glühwein (mulled wine), kids to hot chocolate and delicious food. At home, roasted goose is very popular. In my own family, we called the tradition Anessen meaning tasting and getting ready for the actual goose eating on Christmas.

Depending on the region, the children are also rewarded with a pastry called a Weckmann or a Stutenkerl, a sweet bread roll shaped into a man with raisin eyes and a white clay pipe in his mouth. In some regions, children even go from door to door to collect candy, fruit, cookies or money as a reward for their beautiful lanterns and singing. In some way it kind of resembles Halloween’s trick-or-treating in the US.

In northern Germany and Berlin, where I grew up, the St Martin’s Day custom is more widely known as Laternenfest or Lantern Festival. Laternenfest is a secular version of Martinstag – a Christian celebration. Legend has it that on November 11th St Martin, a kindly Roman solider cut his cloak in half and gave it to a beggar in a snowstorm and then found Christianity and was baptized. In many parts of Germany, the processions are led by someone in a St Martin outfit which looks just like a Roman soldier carrying a sword and wearing a cloak.

St. Martin’s Day Songs

Here are two songs children sing in Germany for St. Martin’s Day.

Laterne, Laterne

Laterne, Laterne
Sonne, Mond und Sterne
Brenne auf, mein Licht,
Brenne auf, mein Licht
Aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.

Here’s the English translation for Laterne, Laterne…

Lantern, Lantern

Lantern, Lantern,
Sun, moon and stars,
Burn, my light,
Burn, my light,
But not my dear lantern.

The second song I remember very well because it was the one we used to sing repeatedly.

Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne

Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne
Und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne
Und unten leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus,
Ich geh’ nach Haus,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum, bum, bum.

Here’s the English translation for Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne…

I Walk with My Lantern

I walk with my lantern,
And my lantern with me.
Above me the stars shine,
And down here we glow.
My light is out,
I go home,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum, bum, bum.

Build Your Own St. Martin’s Day Lantern

Along with supplies to make our own lantern, my oldest and I also picked up a package of paper lanterns and some stickers at Target, so he can work on his own lantern, while I work on the other one.

You will need:

  1. Scissors 
  2. Glue/ clear tape
  3. A piece of wire or string ( we used fishing line)
  4. A candle holder (you can use a tea light candle) 
  5. A round cheese box (from Brie or Camembert cheese or Laughing Cow cheese wedges)
  6. Colored cellophane wrap (we used parchment paper)
  7. Paper
  8. Rubber band
  9. Stick (we just used one that we found in the backyard)
  10. Battery-operated candle


Glue/tape together pieces of paper to form a rectangle big enough to fit around the cheese box.


Glue the tea-light candle to the bottom of the cheese box.


Cut several squares out of the paper using scissors and tape the parchment paper over the cut out squares.


Glue/tape the paper around the bottom of the cheese box.


Press the bottom out of the cheese box lid and add glue onto the outer surface of the ring.


Glue/tape the ring to the top edge of the lantern.


Make two holes in the top ring of the lantern. Bend the wire into the shape of a handle or use the fishing line and put it through the holes, tying it at the end.


Attach a stick with the help of a rubber band.


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