Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lanterns for St. Martin

lanterns in PragueSaturday night the weather behaved and we gathered with friends at the top of one of Prague's seven hills to parade with lanterns through the dark. None of our friends knew quite what inspired the show, but it seemed to be a cross between Halloween and a St. Martin's day parade. All the children dressed up in costume and carried paper lanterns (with lit candles inside, ours only singed a bit).

The organizers carved pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns and handed out candy to the children as they marched through the night, following a candlelit path through the park and the woods on the trail of a mysterious cat who had stolen a giant pumpkin and must be pursued!

The end of the trail led us to a small stage set up for shadow theater. There the cat was duly tracked down by the children, who bought the pumpkin off of her for a treasure of silver coins (chestnuts wrapped in aluminum foil), and were then rewarded with babovka and more bonbons.

It was all very satisfyingly scary and safe at the same time and Caroline ranked it right up there with trick-or-treating for fun, though as she noted, there was a little too much "boo-ky"* involved for total comfort.

*boo-ky = a Czechlish word made up by C to mean scary in a Halloween sort of way.

8 comments:

eurolush said...

I like the nighttime photo with the glowing candlelight.

Sounds like a fun evening in Prague for children.

lenabee said...

AHA! The Czech Republic and Switzerland have even more in common then the love of cross-country skiing!!!

We missed the famous "Räbelichtli (turnip light) Parade" this year - but will try to be better organised next...

christina said...

The children will be knocking on doors for their St. Martin's candy on November 11 in our town and the lantern carriers have been out in full force for weeks now. It's so much fun for the little ones.

Julia said...

It was fun, and this was truly the first time I'd seen it happen in Prague. We're hoping to find something like this next year too!

Ee, do they give out candy or is it all gourd related ;-)? And Christina, do the lantern carriers come knocking on your doors, or just walk in parades?

christina said...

@ Julia: The lantern parades, a Catholic tradition, start in early November and are usually organized by the kindergartens and churches. The children get a croissant or a "Weckmann" (a little figure made out of sweet yeast dough)afterwards but no candy. In our town they are accompanied by a marching band, torches and sometimes St. Martin himself on a horse.

Apparently the candy thing is a Protestant custom and only takes place in specific parts of northern Germany including southern Lower Saxony where we live. The kids organize themselves into little groups on Nov. 11 in the afternoon or early evening and knock on doors to get candy. They don't carry lanterns but they do have to sing the "Matten Matten Mähren" song before the goods are handed over. It used to be they only got oranges, apples or nuts, but Mars Bars and Snickers seem to be the treats of choice these days. :-)

Lucy said...

I'm learning so much about different customs around the world through blogging.

That photo is really magical..

lenabee said...

J - I'm not sure whether they give out anything as we didn't get to go - but have heard rumours of "Wegglis" being in circulation. (Similar to "Weckmanns" I do believe.) It is though really focused on the turnips themselves. Massive structures of turnips are raised up along the parade route.

Kelly said...

I'm so sorry I missed that! Sounds very cool...