Children of the Netherlands light lanterns and walk the streets singing songs and collecting small gifts such as candy.
It is easy to think of St Martin's Day as the Halloween of Europe. Halloween is not a great festivel in Amsterdam. Halloween is normally celebrated by adults as a great reason to have a party, dance and drink.
St Martin's day is for the children. Traditionally, lanterns were made of hollowed out turnip and beets. These days children make a lantern at school. School groups and family's organize parades through Amsterdam's old city. In Neighborhoods groups of children will walk through their area singing with their lanterns.
|15th century art of St Maarten from the Rijksmuseum|
An important part of the walk is singing songs. There are traditional songs and children make up their own nonsensical rhymes. A traditional a song is:
Sinte Maarten krikske vuur, (St. Martin, make a cherry wood fire)
Geef ons een pannekoek uit de pan. (give us a pancake hot from the pan)
Who is St Martin (Maartin)
Known as St Martin of Tours he was originally a Roman solider. He later become a monk who became famous for his kindness, living a simple life. The most famous tale is when on a cold winter's night in a snow storm he came across a beggar. He gave the beggar his clock and saved him from certain death. St Martin is known as a friend of children and the patron of the poor.
St Martin's day also marks the beginning of Winter. The date of the 11 November represents the end of the agrarian year and beginning of harvest. Traditionally, animals are butchered and the first of the years wine is ready to drink. It is also the beginning of Advent. Advent is the Christian period of preparation for Christmas. Many Christians will fast during this period. Hence some people refer to it as St Martin's Lent.
If in Amsterdam on 11 November listen out for the voices of children.. They will be singing with their lanterns in the darkness of the early evening.
When in Amsterdam...enjoy!