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GERMAN TRADITIONS

Where to enjoy St. Martin’s Day celebrations across Germany

St Martin is a special figure in Christian tradition. Here's how you can enjoy celebrations of his good deed.

Where to enjoy St. Martin’s Day celebrations across Germany
A St Martins procession in the town of Riedlingen in 2019. Photo: dpa | Thomas Warnack

According to legend, Saint Martin, a Roman soldier, gave a beggar half of his red cloak to protect him during a snowstorm. As a result, many countries of the Catholic faith designate a day in his honour to celebrate his good deed, usually the 11th of November.

In Germany, this consists of a lantern procession, huge bonfires, singing, story-telling and a hearty St. Martin’s Day meal.

While celebrations were largely cancelled last year as a result of the pandemic, an easing of restrictions means St. Martin’s Day is back on the German holiday calendar and an opportunity to join in on this German tradition is here. Make sure to check the COVID regulations for each individual event to make sure you can fully enjoy this autumn festival. 

What events are on around Germany this St. Martin’s Day?

The traditional lantern walk – Laternenlauf – is usually organized independently, however many of these parades are open to all and encourage people of all ages to join and celebrate the occasion. 

If you’re in Berlin, head to Museum Island, where the celebration of St. Martin begins at the Berlin Cathedral. First, there will be a production of the play of St. Martin at 5pm, followed by songs on the steps of the cathedral at 5:45pm, ending with the lantern processions around Museum Island.

For churchgoers, head to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche at 4:30pm for a special family service during which the story of St. Martin is told, followed by another lantern procession starting at Breitscheidplatz. At the end of the walk, you’ll find the traditional St. Martin’s bonfire and get to enjoy some delicious grilled Bratwurst and warm wintery drinks.

In Frankfurt, families and groups of children are invited to come with their lanterns to an open-air sing-along around a St. Martin’s bonfire on the Kirchplatz at 5pm on November 11th.

At St. Bernhard’s church there will be a service with brass music and a pretzel for each participating child to share. The St. Martin’s Story will also be available to view in the open church until the 14th of November, where there will be videos and songs to sing along to, and find out more about the holiday’s history. 

A sculpture of St martin at a procession in the Rhine region. Photo: dpa | Uwe Anspach

In Munich, the lantern procession on November 11th at the Erlöserkirche in Schwabing has unfortunately been cancelled for the second year running, however there will still be a church service (with 3G-rule and compulsory mask wearing).

But, if you’re still feeling in the spirit a few days later, head northeast of Munich to the big Freisinger St. Martin’s procession through Freising’s city center to the Domberg.

This procession in Freising is considered one of the most beautiful in Bavaria and is organized by the Freising Music School. You’ll be greeted by choir and orchestra performances at Marienplatz at 5:30pm on November 14th, followed by a lantern procession and bonfire.

In Nuremberg, the traditional St. Martin’s procession in the city center, which usually goes from St. Sebald’s Church to Egidienplatz had to be cancelled this year. However, just outside of Nüremberg in Fürth, the Church of St. Martin on Hochstraße will be holding the St. Martin’s Market on the 12th of November.

From 3:30pm onwards you can enjoy bratwurst, punsch, coffee, cake and grilled St. Martin’s fish. An open-air service will take place at 4:30pm, followed by the lantern procession ending in front of the church, where St. Martin will be waiting on horseback. 

In Cologne, a socially distanced and masked service will be held at 5pm in the iconic Kölner Dom. During the service, the St. Martin’s play will be performed, then you can head to Roncalliplatz, where St. Martin will be on horseback ready to lead the procession through the old town to the church of St. Martin.

Afterwards, bread rolls (wrapped up for hygiene reasons) will be distributed to everyone in the crowd. November 11th also marks the beginning of the carnival period, so don’t miss the opportunity to start the celebrations early in Germany’s carnival capital. 

And if you don’t feel like going out on this wintery St. Martin’s Day, why not attempt to make a traditional German St. Martin’s Day feast, featuring red cabbage, dumplings and, most importantly, the Martinsgans (Martin’s goose).

SEE ALSO: Are Christmas pickle ornaments really a German tradition?

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GERMAN TRADITIONS

Where are the German royal family now?

To mark the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, we thought we’d ask what happened to the German royals, who were pushed out in a revolution that took place over a hundred years ago.

Where are the German royal family now?

The Queen of the United Kingdom is celebrating 70 years on the throne this weekend, making hers one of the longest reigns of any monarch in European history.

Elizabeth II’s popularity and the popularity of the monarchy in the UK might well be a point of jealousy for her distant relations, the Hohenzollern family, who ruled Germany up until the end of the First World War.

Who were the Hohenzollerns?

Originally hailing from the Württemberg region of southern Germany, members of the Hohenzollern dynasty reigned in various German princedoms in the early modern era. One branch of the family even sat on the throne of Romania up until 1947.

But the most influential branch of the family held sway in Brandenburg and later Prussia between the 17th and 19th centuries when Prussia, with Berlin as its capital, rose to become a major European power.

When Germany was united under Prussian leadership in 1871, the Hohenzollern kings took on the mantle of monarchs of Germany and its empire.

During the Kaiserreich era which ended with defeat in World War One, the Hohenzollern kings had immense power: they could hire and fire the German Chancellor and had large control over foreign policy.

Kaiser Wilhelm II (c) studies a map with two generals during WWI. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | dpa

While the Hohenzollern in the pre-war period are remembered in Germany today as being strictly conservative and resistant to societal progress, earlier generations were more liberal.

For instance, Berlin’s French flare – seen in places such as Gendarmenmarkt – is the result of the policies of the Hohenzollern family, who welcomed in tens of thousands of French Huguenots who were persecuted in their homeland due to their protestant faith.

The last Hohenzollern to sit on a German throne was a disaster though, both for his family and his country.

Wilhelm II, a grandson of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, was known for his bellicose foreign policy and his erratic public statements, which ultimately led Europe into war in 1914.

Wilhelm was forced to abdicate in 1918 after Germany’s defeat on the western front in the First World War. 

Germany became a republic and Wilhelm lived out his final days in the Netherlands.

Where are they now?

Because the German royals were allowed to make a peaceful exit after Wilhelm’s abdication, his direct heirs are still alive today.

The current head of the family is Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, who was born in 1976 and is the great-great grandson of Wilhelm II. 

On his paternal side, Georg Friedrich counts a number of European royal families among his ancestors. His great-great grandparents include several Russian Romanovs and a Duchess of Edinburgh.

The current “prince of Prussia” was educated at a Scottish boarding school before serving in the Bundeswehr and then studying business.

For years he was tied up in a lengthy legal battle with two uncles, who demanded a cut of his inheritance. But the family wealth, which is mainly in the form of valuable art, furniture and jewellery, doesn’t appear to have provided him with a life of luxury.

In 2012, Bild newspaper reported that he had to sell a precious diamond to stave off financial difficulty. At the time he was living in a rental property in Berlin. 

His marriage to Princess Sophie of Isenburg in 2011 in Potsdam was attended by members of many of Germany’s former aristocratic elite and was considered a big enough event to receive a live television broadcast by local public broadcaster RBB.

He now lives as a private citizen in Potsdam, the city made famous by his family’s splendid palaces such as Sansouci.

Legacy controversy

Georg Friedrich runs a brewery called the ​​Kgl. Preußischen Biermanufaktur which brews its beer in Braunschweig.

He is probably best known, though, for his attempts to regain some of his family’s palaces and art collections via the courts. 

These attempts have been controversial to say the least.

Historians and museums have said that the claims are totally inappropriate given what they say is clear proof that Georg Friedrich’s great grandfather, Crown Prince Wilhelm, helped Hitler into power in the early 1930s.

Newspapers and several leading historians of the Kaiser period have accused Georg Friedrich of a campaign of intimidation, after his lawyers threatened to sue them over the publication of claims that Crown Prince Wilhelm was close to Hitler.

Among the properties that Georg Friedrich wants the right to use is Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, which is now part of a UNESCO world heritage site.

Cecilienhof palace in Postdam. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Soeren Stache

The property was seized by East Germany’s communist rulers after the Second World War. The Hohenzollern descendants say that they have just as much right to get their property back as all the other landowners who were expropriated under communism.

German law states, however, that a family has no right to compensation if they were substantially involved in Hitler’s rise to power.

Georg Friedrich’s energies have been taken up in recent years in trying to show that his great grandfather was only a peripheral figure in the rise to power of the Nazis.

READ ALSO: Why do Germans love shooting fireworks at New Year?

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