Thoughtful Episode 1: St. Martins Day

Helping to dismantle social media in its current form will be a slow process. Sharing the funny, thoughtful and delicious aspects of life in order to drown out some of the negative information out there is just me dipping my toe into the deep pool of possibilities of social media influence over our lives.

So on that note: This week we celebrated St. Martin’s Day. (St. Martins Tag) Each year on November 11, communities all over Germany and Europe honor St. Martin of Tours, who is most well-known for tearing his cloak in half and sharing it with a beggar during a snow storm sometime between the years 316 and 397. The traditions vary widely but here in Germany there are always parades, lanterns, pretzels, and plays in the town square acting out the story. It feels a little like a mix of Halloween and Christmas. Especially this year it has felt like the kick-off to the holiday season.

During the weeks leading up to St. Martin’s Tag, the kindergarten children in any given city make paper lanterns and learn songs about St. Martin. In normal years there is a parade in the evening from the church to the town square with a man on horse back representing St. Martin. All the children trail behind lighting the way with their lanterns and singing. The story of St. Martin is usually acted out. Sometimes featuring the children as the actors and narrators. Pretzels are passed out to signify the sharing that St. Martin was famous for. (The pretzels vary between sweet and salty depending on where you are in Germany.)

2020 however has not been a normal year. All official St. Martin’s Day activities were cancelled due to Covid-19. Tighter restrictions have been put back into place and meetings between households are limited to 2 families at a time.

But just like the little ray of light that they are, the children still constructed their paper lanterns in kindergarten. They still learned all the songs and acted out their stories. While the main events in the city squares were cancelled, families were still encouraged to walk around and sing outside in the evening. People were asked (through newsletters sent home from Kindergartens mostly) to light their windows with twinkle lights and lanterns so that the children would have something to look for as they walked. In this way, it’s possible that St. Martin’s Day 2020 allowed more people to be included in shining a light on what has been a pretty dark year.

It’s interesting to note that this year the St. Martin’s Celebrations across Europe coincided with the Indian festival of light called Diwali. Diwali celebrates a number of different stories but what’s significant is that over time it has become a national festival in India that seems to include all Indians regardless of faith.

Zoom way out and imagine looking down at the earth. Imagine if you could see the children shining their lanterns across Europe, while the lights twinkled across the entire expanse of India. Imagine those lights being connected by the flicker of candles lit in celebrations we know nothing about. What beauty to behold every member of the human race as a little light in the darkness, shining in solidarity together along side the sun and the moon.

I always get a little choked up listening to the kids sing their songs and carry their lanterns. They know so little of the depth of the words they sing but it is clear–Sharing and bringing joy to others, is not just for some people. It’s not just for kids or Christians or for Christmas time. It’s a stunning revelation when you think about it–this need for light, this desire to be a light for others–these are realities that cut across all the lines that divide us–these are human needs and desires—parts of our human condition, and have very little to do with where we live, how we look or the name of the God we worship.

These moments make me happy to be human, happy to be a student of the world, happy to be a person with a mama’s heart and an adventurous spirit. Happy for the chance to shine the light and to catch some of yours.

Until next time,

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