St. Martin’s Day Procession
Wednesday 11 November in Homburg
Children who want to take part in Homburg’s St Martin’s Day procession meet at the Marktplatz at 17:00. Children should bring lanterns if they have them – but no open flame torches please.
At about 17:15, the procession, led by St Martin and the beggar, and accompanied by musicians from the church in Kirrberg, sets off through the streets of Homburg and returns to the historic market square (Marktplatz) where St Martin performs the traditional ceremony of sharing his cloak with the beggar. Then the Martin’s fire is lit, traditional songs are sung and there’s a special suprise for all the children.
The story behind St Martin’s Day
“Lantern, lantern, sun, moon, and stars. . . ” This refrain echoes through the autumn streets of Germany every year on November 11. Happy children with colorful, handmade lanterns promenade through the streets, singing songs.
There are many legends surrounding St Martin and his kind and generous deeds are known to every child in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
He was born Martin von Tours in Sabaria, in what is now Hungary, in 316 A.D. and joined the Roman army as a youth.
Legend has it that at the gates of Amiens Martin met a poor, scantily clothed beggar, who asked him for help from the freezing cold. But Martin had nothing with him other than his military cloak, so he decided to share it with the man. With one stroke, he split his warm cloak in two and gave one half to the man, who was deeply grateful. After performing this act of generosity, Martin left the military service and had himself baptized a Christian so he could help people in need.
This is not the only story about St. Martin still told today. There is also another legend about how he was named bishop. Being a modest man, he did not feel himself worthy to become bishop, so he hid in a stable filled with geese. The squawking of the geese was so loud that the townspeople found him. The tradition of the St. Martin’s goose, which is typically served on the evening of St. Martin’s following the lantern procession most likely evolved from this legend.