Saturday, December 5, 2009

Laternin Fest

In November there is a German celebration called St Martin's Day where all the small children walk around holding lanterns. St Martin was this guy who was walking through the snow with his lantern one day and came across a man, freezing to death. St Martin took off his coat, ripped it in half and gave half to the man. (I imagine it was a cloak, or some sort of wrappy thing because otherwise surely half a coat would be of minimal use to either man.) So St Martin's day is all about celebrating this gesture (although no one wears ripped up coats I noticed).

I suffered a certain amount of stress when instructed by Mads' kindy teacher that I needed to purchase a 'stick with a light bulb on the end' so Mads could hang her lantern on it. It's a strange thing, searching for something in the shops when really you have no idea what it is exactly that you are looking for. As it turned out I easily recognised the item I was searching for. It was the stick with the small light bulb dangling from the end. That was a relief, but there was further stress when I realised the stick needed batteries - two 'baby batteries' the instructions said. Baby batteries? Never heard of them. I sent Thieu out - he is the battery guy - and he came through with the goods. I'm still not sure why they're called baby batteries though. They weren't even small.

So at 5 pm the following evening Mads and I (Thieu was working) loaded the lantern up onto the stick and joined the other parent/child combos at the kinder. Then we paraded through the backstreets of Langen until coming to a halt outside the local, and rather drab, Langen pizza shop. Then, for some reason that is not clear to me, everyone began to sing a German song to the tune of 'Oh When The Saints Go Marching In.' Maybe we were begging for food? No food was forth-coming, unfortunately, and we all turned and marched back to the kindergarten.

At the kindergarten I bought some soup, a pretzel, some kinder-punsch and a gluhwein and staggered back into the kinder room to find all the chairs were occupied. A man saw me looking around, stood up and carefully lay his coat and umbrella across one of the seats, eyeing me with a look that clearly said 'this is my seat. Rack off.' Then he left the room, presumably to purchase food. So Mads and I stood and somehow managed to balance all the items in my hands without spilling very much at all. 15 minutes later the man returned with no food picked up his belongings and departed, seemingly oblivious to my hateful glares. Had he understood any of the St Martin's Day message of sharing and being neighbourly? Luckily, the gluhwein had kicked in by then and I resisted grabbing his coat and ripping it in two.

Next Hessen tradition: finding out what happens to your boots on the evening of Dec 6..

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