Happy Martinmas! Or Saint Martin’s Day. Or Martinstag. Whichever you prefer.
Martinmas is a very popular holiday, especially in Europe, where the children carry lanterns, have parades, and sing Martin songs. People are often drawn to this day because of the famous legend of Martin and because of the beauty of lanterns and lights in the dark.
So, light a candle tonight and share Martin’s story*:
Many, many years ago, on a cold and grey November day, a young Roman soldier named Martin was riding with a group of young men. There were on orders of the Roman emperor. They were riding fast, since they had to make it to the next town before dark.
It started to rain. Because of the cold, the rain started to freeze and the streets were icy and slippery. It was hard for the horses to walk and they could only move slowly. But when it started to get dark, one of the soldiers became impatient. He told the others to just take the risk and ride as fast as possible to the next town. The horses could rest there. Everybody followed him but Martin continued to ride slowly. His horse had been a good companion to him and he didn’t want to put him in danger. Rain turned to snow and Martin couldn’t see his friends anymore.
It was dark when Martin arrived at the town. When he was about to enter through the gate, his horse stopped. Martin had to get up to see what was the matter and this is how he noticed a poor man, sitting in front of the gate, looking for some shelter. His clothes were torn and thin and he was shivering from the cold.
Martin had given all his money away to other poor people he saw along the way. But he wanted to help this man, too. So he took his sword, cut his expensive, warm cloak in half and gave one part to the poor man.
He found his companions in the local bar. When he entered, they could see that something had changed with him. Instead of the usual response to his charity of jokes and laughter, they turned quiet and changed by his story.
During the night, Martin had a dream. Jesus appeared clothed in his cloak and said to him, “when you clothed this poor man, you clothed me.”
After this experience, Martin was a changed man. He completed his time as a soldier and became a monk, leading a quiet and simple life and serving the poor.
Family discussion questions:
- Why didn’t want Martin to ride with the other? Where were his priorities?
- Why did Martin give part of his coat to the poor man?
- Why do you think Martin’s compassion and his act of dividing his coat had such an impact on his friends?
- What did Jesus mean, when he talked to Martin in his dream?
*This is my version of the story. There are some different set ups but the core of the story always stays the same.
Want to make a lantern? Here’s a great tutorial.
Here’s a great site with Martin’s songs.