Monday, November 11, 2013

St. Martin

On the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11 minutes past 11 o'clock a.m. St. Martin's Day is celebrated in Germany in predominantly Catholic regions. In Cologne the Carnival season opens on Altermarkt at exactly the same hour.

©German Culture
In the evening of St. Martin's Day boys and girls traditionally light up the candles in their lanterns, walk around the houses, and sing: St. Martin ist ein guter Mann, der uns als Beispiel gelten kann (St. Martin is a good man who can serve us as an example). The best-known legend of St. Martin, the bishop of Tours who lived in the 4th century, is, when he, then still a soldier in the Roman army, tore his cloak in two to share it with a freezing beggar at Amiens.

You already met St. Martin in an earlier blog. While the controversy about a new picture on Freiburg's Martinstor (Martin's Gate) is not yet resolved another dispute has developed in Germany. Rüdiger Sagel, Chairman of Die Linke (Post communist party) in the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia, said that in Kitas (Kindertagestätten > day care centers) you will not only find Christians but children of other beliefs too. One should not impose a Christian tradition on them. He instead is advocating a Sonne-Mond-und-Sterne-Fest (sun, moon, and star fest). In fact, in Protestant Northern Germany without saints the kids promenading their lanterns usually sing: Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne, brenne auf mein Licht, brenne auf mein Licht, nur meine liebe Laterne nicht (Lantern, lantern, sun, moon, and stars, burn away my light, burn away my light, but not my beloved lantern), a tearful disaster that happens once in a while.

Sagel's remark caused a storm of indignation. One politician considered the obsessive political correctness as being very sad. Another proposed renaming the Day of the Ascension of Christ to Day of Manned (sorry Human) Space Flight. The President of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman A. Mazyek, was quick in pointing out that many Muslim families like this spectacle of lanterns and torches. The idea of sharing, personified in St. Martin, is also anchored in the Muslim tradition. Some Kitas in the state of Hesse already renamed the Martinsfest whereas Red Baron will enjoy the candle-lit St. Martin's processions in Freiburg tonight.

Pictures added in proof:


On my way to a conference about Switzerland during the Second World War I met some adults who have remained young at heart. I took a photo with my iPhone.

When I opened the Badische Zeitung this morning I found a photo (©BZ) showing a young lady on a horse playing the role of St. Martin. Do you consider this obsessive political correctness?

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