According to legend, St Martin was a soldier in the Roman army when one day he saw a beggar walking outside the city gates. Upon seeing the destitute figure, Martin took his cloak and cut it, giving half to the beggar to keep him warm. That night, Martin dreamed he saw Jesus wearing the half-cloak and Jesus told him, “You clothed me with this robe.”
In Berlin, parents lead their children through the streets carrying lanterns. It’s known as Laternelaufen or ‘walking with Lanterns’, and sometimes a man dressed up as St Martin accompanies them on a horse. This tradition is increasingly sidelined in favour of Halloween, but here are some events where you can celebrate the soldier-turned-saint (or simply enjoy the spectacle). Don’t forget your lantern!
Martin’s Festival at the Konradshöhe church
This celebration begins with a church devotional and ends with a bonfire on the church grounds. The lantern procession runs through the Borsig neighbourhood and snacks and drinks are provided.
- Schwarzspechtweg 1
Lantern parade at the Biesdorf Center
This event starts at 4:30pm on Elsterwerdaer Platz at the Biesdorf Center. St Martin will lead the lantern parade on horseback, and there will also be a theatrical performance and a fire show by Freaks on Fire.
- Weißenhöher Str. 108
Lantern parade at Museum Island
This celebration on Museuminsel is one for those who live more centrally: the celebration begins at the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom). You can watch a play about St Martin from 6-7pm and join the lantern procession afterwards.
- Am Lustgarten
Lantern parade in the Britzer Garden
This is one of the more lavish events. You do need to pay to enter here, but the sheer amount of things to see makes it worth it. There’s singing, theatre, a lantern parade, fairy tales about the sun moon and stars, bonfire lighting and a brass band. Participating children will receive a Weckmännchen (a sweet bread roll shaped like a gingerbread man) as a gift.
- Sangerhauser Weg 1
Kreuzberg lantern walk
Parading through the streets to the St Johannes Basilika on Hasenheide, this lantern walk is good for those who don’t want to venture too far outside the city. On the steps of the church, there will be a performance of the St Martin legend, while spectators can warm themselves with Glühwein, for the parents, and children’s punch, for the youngsters.
- at the corner of Admiralstraße and Planufer
These three lantern walks start near Mauerpark; they start at 4:30, 5, and 6pm. The second run features St Martin on horseback. At the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark you will find people singing traditional songs, watching a play about the saint, Martin’s croissants, warm drinks, sausages and a bonfire.
- Cantianstraße 24
Lantern festival at the Alte Fasanerie in Lübars
This activity is great for parents with young children: it starts at 3pm. Children can make their own lanterns, (supplies are available for a small fee). The parade runs from 5-6, and when you circle back around to the Alte Fasanerie (Old Pheasantry) you can enjoy bread on a stick over a warm campfire.
- Fasanerie 10, Lübars
This lantern parade begins at the St Nikolai Church in Spandau and runs through the charming old town of Spandau all the way to the Petrus Church. The website of the organizers has particularly good information about the holiday and traditional celebrations.
- Carl-Schurz-Straße, Spandau
Walk the streets!
If you can’t catch any of these events, many St Martin’s Day lantern walks are organised privately. Keep your eyes peeled and you can’t miss the children walking the streets carrying lanterns and singing the traditional songs, the most famous of which begins: Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne (Lantern! Lantern! Sun, moon and stars!)
Got your goose?
Legend has it that the humble St Martin hid in a barn to escape being called as a bishop, but honking geese gave away his hiding place. The traditional meal around this holiday features roasted goose, and you can find it in many restaurants. Here are some local recommendations from our sister magazine TipBerlin:
- Brasserie at Gendarmenmarkt
- Fährhaus Saatwinkel
- Jäger & Lustig
- platz doch!
- Rutz Zollhaus
- Ganymed Brasserie
- Café am Neuen See
- Brecht’s Steakhouse
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