Light your lanterns, it's St Martin's night!
St Martin's day is celebrated in the evening of 11 November in Flanders, parts of the Netherlands and most areas of Germany and Austria.
Children go from door to door carrying paper lanterns and sing traditional songs about Sint Maarten to the householders in return for sweets and goodies, a custom which can be likened somewhat to the American tradition of 'trick or treat' at Halloween.
"Children expect sweets now," a Dutch colleague told me, remembering the disgust registering on young faces as he handed out tangerines after the children had enthusiastically gone through their song repertoire.
In the eastern part of the Belgian province of West-Flanders, especially around Ypres, children receive presents from St Martin on 11 November instead of from Saint Nicholas on 6 December, or Santa Claus on December 25. St Martin, in the Flemish tradition, is also helped by a Zwarte Piet.
Sint Maarten in Monschau, Germany.
Who was St Martin?
Saint Martinus or Martin of Tours, was originally a Roman soldier. He was baptized in adulthood, became a monk and was known as a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. Legend has it that he once tore his cloak in half and gave it to a begger to keep him from dying of cold during a snowstorm.
Sint Maarten liedjes (songs)
Mijn moeder is een dikzak,
Mijn vader is een dunnetje,
Geef m' een pepermunnetje!
For more Sint Maarten songs Click here