Yesterday, we had the pleasure of participating in our first Martinstag or Saint Martin’s Day. It’s a very popular and traditional celebration here of a Roman soldier who ripped his cloak in half for a beggar who was freezing on the side of the road. All the villages and towns seem to have their own celebration of the sainted man. It was a wet and cold night but I bundled up Nora and Jack (Gary was traveling) and we headed into the Aldstadt of our village for a party at Jack’s pre-school (Spielgruppen). Pretty soon we heard drums beating and it was time to join the parade. There were hundreds of people, holding lanterns, streaming through the streets lined with half-timbered houses. The very young, like Nora and Jack, have lanterns with battery-operated lights surrounded by beautiful paper designs. Older children get the privilege of carrying actual torches.
Our parade was led by a man on horseback, dressed like St. Martin as a Roman soldier, and he guided us up toward the castle. Once we reached the castle, there was a giant bonfire and remarks from the Burgermeister and the reigning castle “queen” Verena, another friend from our early days here. After warming by the fire, we exited the castle grounds and every child was given a Wechmann, a sweet bread in the shape of a ginger bread man.
It was a beautiful night but what made it even more special was running into my new friend Natalie on our way up to the castle. Natalie is from South Africa and we have played tennis a few times. I told her that I had made another South African friend named Lauren and I thought they should meet. When I described Lauren a little further, Natalie cocked her head and smiled “I think I know her. She was my playmate until we were 4 years old.” I followed up with Lauren the next day and, yes, she’s the one. Reunion on the way.