On 10th November, the people of Düsseldorf get together to celebrate St Martin’s Day with more than 130 processions taking place all over the city. St Martin rides through the streets on horseback followed by a band and a large crowd of children proudly showing off their home-made paper lanterns, all singing traditional songs. The largest and most spectacular procession winds its way through the narrow streets in the old town attracting around 200 children.
The tradition of celebrating St Martin goes back to the Middle Ages when the reputation of this kind man had reached the Franconia and Saxony regions in central Europe. He was chosen to be a patron of many churches, abbeys and hospitals as early as the 5thCentury. Through his life, St Martin was known for his benevolence and was baptised at the age of 18. As a soldier, he was said to have shared his coat with a needy beggar. St Martin left the army after he was baptised and lived as a hermit for the remainder of his life. He was made Bishop of Tours against his wishes and died in 397. St Martin’s Day is mainly celebrated in Germany’s Catholic regions, although lantern processions are also popular in other regions around this time of year.
Many local restaurants serve the traditional Martin’s goose for the festival, which is served with red cabbage and dumplings. The goose is associated with St Martin as he is said to have hidden in a barn full of geese so that he wouldn’t be made Bishop of Tours!