Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

Patron Saints, Lanterns and Pastry

Lanterns and Daddies.

This weekend was a special day in Erfurt. It is a day celebrated in many places across Europe as the person celebrated touched a lot of peoples lives. Martin of Tours is the Patron Saint of Erfurt. He was a soldier who met a scantily-clad beggar at the gates of Amiens. It was a cold night and he impulsively tore his cloak in two and shared it with the beggar. That night, Martin dreamt that Jesus came to him and returned his cloak. He heard Jesus say to the angel, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clad me.” When Martin awoke in the morning, his cloak was restored and he was baptised the very same day and became a Christian.

I have heard this story, or fragments of it, many times since I arrived here as my students attempted to articulate, in English, why it was a celebration I couldn’t miss. I was pretty ill but dosed up on all the medication I could, wrapped up warm and headed out, Olbas Oil in hand. When I got on the tram, it was packed with small children and their parents, holding home-made lanterns with tealights. I was not prepared for what I found when I got off though. I went past Domplatz to meet some friends and we walked up to Domplatz together. There were families everywhere. Lots of Dad’s with children too, probably because Mummy was at home with the baby. It was as if every child in Erfurt who could walk (and some who couldn’t) had come out to celebrate. I think they probably had.

Piles of Pastries

Everybody headed towards Domplatz, us included, and bought Martinshoernchen along the way. These are special yummy pastries, shaped like horns and filled with jam or marzipan. They are only made for Martinsfest and are delicious! You could barely see the ground at Domplatz, there were so many people. We worked our way forward though and we ended up with a great view of the Dom. It felt warmer when it wasn’t deserted.

Everyone looked up in anticipation as people acted out the story of Saint Martin of Tours on the steps of the Cathedral. It was beautiful. Afterwards everybody sung and celebrated. The day is so special in Erfurt because it is also a celebtration of Martin Luther. It was quite unlike anything I’d seen before and it was nice to have something so special, so close to Bonfire Night as we were all pretty sad to have missed that.

After singing, the children filed into the cathedral for the service. We wandered around the temporary market which was there for the evening and marvelled over what it was going to be like at Christmas. There were beautiful stalls selling sweet treats, warm drinks and presents. I particularly liked a stall selling bespoke candles and candleholders but managed to resist it all with hopes of waiting till the Christmas markets.

Christmas is coming. Every day I wait at Domplatz for my tram to school and I watch men with planks of wood making adorable little huts for the stalls. Suddenly, fairy lights are appearing everywhere and the sense of cheer is infectious. It is less than a month until Ramsey is coming and only a week and a bit more until we’ll be sitting around the Tannenbaum, opening presents. Some of you might have been expecting a birthday update in this post and may be keen to hear what I got up to two days ago. The truth is, my celebrations aren’t over yet, it’s my 21st after all! I shall post when celebrations for the week are over and I’ll let you know the juicy secrets, if there are any! For now though, I just want to say thank you for the amazing and unexpected generosity I have experienced. People have made such a fuss of me and it’s really made being away from home and my brother on our birthday all the more barable. It will be a birthday that I’ll never forget!

Special lights at Domplatz.



  1. I was in Jena during this celebration about six or seven years. I did not understand what it was all about then. Thanks for sharing. I now have a richer memory of that evening.

    • That should be six or seven years ago :-).

    • I’m glad I was able to enlighten you, there are certain advantages of being a language assistant it would seem. One of the best ways to get them to speak English is to get them to tell me about things that they know everything about and I know nothing! 🙂

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