If you should ever get the chance to visit the area in Germany where I grew up, you will notice one thing upon entering one of these small communities. As you drive into a small town you will notice a distinct feature on the horizon: two church steeples, one belonging to the Catholic church – the other to a Protestant church. Animosities and downright hostilities between the followers of either religious denomination have lasted for centuries. May God forbid that a Catholic girl should ever wed a Protestant man ( or vice versa), as my mother did, for she might become an outcast in her family…Despite the fact that most Protestants do not recognize saints and may even ridicule the Catholic practice of saint worship, there is one celebration in November they will not shun! On the evening of November 11, you will find Protestant and Catholic children alike going on lantern walks at night to celebrate the life of Sankt Martinus.
According to legend, St. Martin started out as a Roman soldier, was baptized as an adult, and became a monk. “It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised he has clothed me.” (quoted form Wikipedia)
Most of the lanterns the children carry they craft lovingly at home or in art class at school. The lanterns are usually made of paper with beautiful cut-out designs that look like the lead glass windows of a church. The lanterns are attached with wire to the end of a dowel. Little tea-lights are used to make them glow in the dark. The children walk from their houses and meet at the market place, or the school building. From there they follow a rider on a white horse, dressed like a Roman soldier, marching towards the outskirts of town. While walking the children sing songs about St. Martin and songs about their lanterns. The destination of their march is a huge bonfire. The children gather around the bonfire. After a dramatic reenactment of the most famous scene from St. Martin’s life, cutting his coat in half and sharing it with the beggar, all children receive a sweet treat. Each child gets handed a figure made of a yeasty bread dough with raisins for eyes.
I so loved this tradition as a child. There was always such a wonderful sense of community in this celebration. What better way to celebrate simple acts of human kindness?
Wishing you lots of light, human warmth and kindness for this season!
Today I want to share with you images of an artist in our group who makes a very different kind of craft. Ann Rinkenberger makes window stars. They are made of multicolored bright transparent papers. I remember this kind of paper from growing up in Germany. We used to make lanterns out of it for the St. Martin’s festivity. Transparenzpapier ( as it is called in German) is used for many crafts by German school children.
Ann’s stars are made up of many segments that involve even more folds. You may think. Ha, I can do that myself. But don’t kid yourself! If you ever tried your hands at origami you know how hard it is. If the folds are not perfectly straight and even your project will not look good in the end.
Folding the perfect window star is a tedious job. It takes patience and concentration. The artist also needs a sense of design. What color combinations will look good together. Each one of Ann’s stars is unique and amazing. Like the hands that make them.
These are the hands that have cared for an Alzheimer’s patient over many months. Tired hands of a faithful daughter. But hands that never give up because they know there is light at the end of the tunnel…
To see Ann’s work please visit her shop HarvestMoonbyHand. I think they will make a wonderful gift for Christmas season or for someone who needs some light in their life!
Ulla Seckler is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned. Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.