Who is the man on the horse?
It is very likely that you will see one of the many Saint Martin’s parades around town at this time of year. There will be over fifty of these parades in Bonn’s city districts these days. The big parade in the city center will take place on Monday, 12 November. And, dressed up as a Roman soldier riding his horse, Saint Martin is heading the beautiful parade.
Saint Martin’s Parade
The parades are being organized in memory of Saint Martin, a Roman soldier who became a shining example of altruism and the grace of charity. The big parade in Bonn’s city center will take place on Monday, 12 November, leaving Münsterplatz at 5:15 pm and finishing with a bonfire on our Market Square in front of the Old Town Hall.
Saint Martin’s Traditions in the Rhineland
Like in many other parts of Germany, children will make colorful lanterns that they carry during the parades. By the way, some children may ring your doorbell after the parade. They will sing Saint Martin’s songs and expect a little treat in return – some chocolate or gummy bears will be fine.
And if you are looking for a special treat: local bakeries sell lots of ‘Weckmänner’ at this time of year – a ‘bread man’ made of yeast dough carrying a pipe.
The Legend of Saint Martin
Saint Martin was born in AD 316 / 317 in a territory that belongs to Hungary today, but formed part of the Roman Empire at the time. As his father was a Roman officer, he had to become a soldier, too – very much against his will. In AD 334 he was stationed in what is France today.
Arriving at a city gate in a cold winter’s night, he saw a beggar in the street – half frozen to death. People were carelessly passing by. Martin did not have anything along that he could give for remedy. Without further ado, he took his warm woolen cloak he had been wearing, dividing it into two pieces with his sword. He gave one half to the beggar, for him to keep warm.
As he was walking back to his horse, the people standing by started laughing at his cut-up coat. His superiors soon disciplined him for ruining military property. But Martin tolerated the mockery and his punishment, knowing that he had saved someone’s life on that day.
He soon left the army and became a priest. Given his exemplary conduct, he was appointed bishop later on. In this position, he always stood up for the poor and oppressed.
After his death, Saint Martin was honored with an annual candlelight procession on the eve of his commemoration day, on 11 November. In later years, people also began to light a bonfire on the harvested fields at that time of the year, as a thanksgiving event for the yield they had received.
In this day and age, innumerous children walk the streets with their crafted, colorful lanterns to celebrate Saint Martin’s Day. Saint Martin, dressed up as a Roman soldier and riding his horse, often accompanies them during the beautiful parades that are held in many German towns around that day.
For more information around Saint Martin, local parades, times and routes, as well as the lyrics to some songs, visit: