German St. Martin – a charity model

Around the 11th of November songs sung by children can be heard echoing through German streets. Colourful lanterns shaped like stars, houses, animals and many other things float from door to door. It’s the day of St. Martin.

Children with their Martin lanterns.

As this tradition more and more passes into oblivion, let me remind you what St. Martin’s day is all about.

Comparable to Halloween, children trek from door to door hoping for sweets. But unlike Halloween they don’t threaten people into rewarding them – they offer the people opening the doors a song.

And there is one song that every German child has to learn at school (in areas where St. Martin’s day is celebrated).

The story of St. Martin

It tells the story of a soldier named Martin who rode through a snowstorm. He encountered a beggar sitting in the snow, begging for somebody to rescue him from freezing.

Without hesitating Martin stops his horse, cuts his good and warm coat in two and hands the beggar one half. Martin rides off before the beggar gets a chance to thank him.

Now, St. Martin is the day where children remind everyone about that soldier’s good deed. Naturally, they get rewarded for that.

Luckily, some people do not even need to be reminded. The other day one of my classmates did literally the same thing: She handed me her coat so I didn’t feel cold anymore.

St. Martin’s day is about sharing. But not in a hurtful way.

Following St. Martin’s example probably isn’t that hard – considering that he keeps one half of the coat to himself.

You don’t have to give away your coat, if it makes you feel cold. But you could split your dinner with someone or buy yourself and the homeless man/ woman on the street a coffee.

I personally think that offering someone a song for candy, nuts, apples or oranges is a fair deal. Even more when it comes from a two-year-old who knows all the lyrics by heart: Rabimmel, rabammel, ra-bum, bum, bum.

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One Response to German St. Martin – a charity model

  1. Narendran Menon says:

    St. Martin and other altruists are to be glorified. Let St. Martin in us surface more! Good subject well written

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