Lantern songs on St. Martin’s day

We were excited when Lantern Walk organizer Jana Phillip offered to translate the songs she remembers from her childhood lantern walks in Germany.

I was already curious about the cultural traditions associated with the lantern walk, and decided to look into it.

On November 11, in France, Germany, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, an autumnal festival occurs to honour St. Martin de Tours, a monk from France that advocated against poverty, alcoholism and unjust imprisonment. He is celebrated for his kind soul and compassionate nature. As the story goes, St. Martin, who was once a Roman soldier, saw a homeless man lying on the cold ground and tore his cloak in half to give to him for warmth. He also left his lantern, which is why children in Germany have a procession on St. Martin’s Day where they walk with lanterns that they have made in school, often accompanied by a man dressed as St. Martin on horseback. The destination is usually the town square where they are served pretzels and bonfires are lit.

Jana has fond memories of this event from her childhood:

“I attended an outdoor preschool in Germany.  Around St. Martin’s day, November 11th of every year, the children of my preschool would gather in the forest clutching their home made lanterns with which we lit up the crisp, dark, winter night.  As we marched along the path in the forest, we were guided by tea lights that marked our way. Our lanterns illuminated the empty branches above us and I swear the fairies came out to dance to our lantern songs:


Laterne, Laterne
Sonne, Mond, und Sterne!
Brenne auf mein Licht,
brenne auf mein Licht,
aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.

Lantern, lantern
Sun, Moon and Stars!
Burn, my light,
burn, my light,
but not my dear lantern.

Lantern walks are steeped in traditions all over the world. Join us on December 21 for our lantern walk on Hett Ave. where we continue our new neigbourhood tradition of honouring the winter, solstice and light. And check out Jana’s recording of two lantern songs and learn them for the walk.

– Jessica Burman


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