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  • Writer's pictureSodality of Charity

SGG St. Martin's Day Lantern Procession

Some of the men of our St. Gertrude the Great church arranged the traditional St. Martin’s Day Procession on Friday, November 11. This wonderful Catholic tradition is especially popular in Germany. It is very popular among children, who make their own paper lanterns ahead of time. After the sun sets, the people come together to walk through the towns, singing songs and carrying their colourful lanterns. And the procession is led by one of the men dressed up as St. Martin, who sits on a horse wearing the costume of a Roman legionary with sword and a red cape. The Gospel of the feast of St. Martin of Tours is from Luke 12:35, where Our Lord says: Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands.

St. Martin’s day is also an European counterpart for Thanksgiving. After his conversion, St. Martin became a very devout man and spent lots of time tending to the poor and sick. He was tricked into coming to Tours in 371 A.D. on the pretense that a sick person needed his help. The townspeople, though, intended to corner him at the local church and force him to become their Bishop. When he found out the real reason, he hid in a barn to avoid this promotion. But the cackling of the geese gave him away, and St. Martin was led to the church and consecrated a Bishop.

As a result, geese are traditionally eaten on St. Martin’s Day in Germany and Sweden. As it falls at the end of harvest, St. Martin’s Day (or Martinmas) became the most common harvest and thanksgiving celebration in medieval times. Following the Reformation, the custom of eating goose on Martinmas continued even in the Calvinist Netherlands, from which the Pilgrims sailed in 1620, bound for North America. When they celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, four men from the Plymouth Plantation set out in search of the food they were accustomed to eat at the harvest festival: geese and other fowl, giving rise to the current tradition of a Thanksgiving dinner centered around a turkey.

Few of our Sodalists also joined in the procession on this dark and cold night, and we are hoping to make this yet another annual gertrudian tradition.


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