Saint Martins Day

St. Martin's Day, also known as the Feast of St. Martin, Martinstag, and is November 11, the feast day of Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life.

The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me."

From the late 4th century CE to the late Middle Ages, much of Western Europe, including Great Britain, engaged in a period of fasting beginning on the day after St. Martin's Day, November 11. This fast period lasted 40 days, and was, therefore, called "Quadragesima Sancti Martini", which means in Latin "the forty days of St. Martin." At St. Martin's eve, people ate and drank very heartily for a last time before they started to fast. This period of fasting was later shortened and called "Advent" by the Church.

In some parts of the West Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, children make their own lantern and go door to door with the lantern, and sing St. Martin songs, in exchange for sweets.