The Saint Martin’s Day Lantern Walk

 on December 1, 2023
Stained glass of Saint Martin at St Martin’s Church, East Horsley, England (detail). Image courtesy of Andy Scott. Used under a CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed license.


On the evening of Nov. 11, the streets around St Barnabas, Victoria were lit up by colourful lanterns carried by the children of the parish.

This annual celebration is in honour of Saint Martin of Tours, also known as Saint Martin the Merciful. Born in the 4th century, Martin, a citizen of the Roman Empire, embraced the recently legalized Christian faith at a young age and then served in the military as he was required to do.

But as a pacifist, Martin refused to take up arms, and he was known for his compassion to others. According to legend, he once met a beggar in rags with whom he shared his warm cloak with by splitting it with his sword.


Another story says that Martin, also renowned for miracles he performed, was so revered by the people that they were determined to make him a bishop. But Martin thought himself unworthy and went so far as to hide himself. His followers took up lanterns to look for him in the night. When he was finally discovered, he was elected Bishop of Tours in Gaul (later France).

Saint Martin’s feast day is Nov. 11, and following a tradition still practiced in Germany, children from St Barnabas’ stage a play about his life, followed by an outdoor of procession of lanterns in which they re-enact the search for the missing saint. After he is “found,” pretzels and other refreshments are enjoyed in commemoration of his generosity and goodness.


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