Lantern walk

An Old German Tradition in a New Setting

by John Clarke

There are many festivals and celebrations in Germany, but one that is particularly connected with children is the Laternenlauf (lantern walk). On 11 November (St Martin’s Day), in the depths of Winter, children gather to make lanterns, which they then light and carry, singing lantern songs, through the darkness: Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne! (Lantern, lantern, sun, moon and stars!) While the tradition is clearly associated with bringing light into a dark world and chasing away the bleakness of Winter, the connection with the soldier priest St Martin, who tore his soldier’s coat in half and shared it with a beggar, is unclear.

The Barossa German Language Association introduced the tradition to the Barossa Valley five years ago, and it has been growing in popularity ever since. Last year’s event had to be cancelled because of Covid restrictions, and so this year it will be a special celebration.

At 4pm on Saturday, 24 July children with their parents and grandparents are invited to gather at the Joy Rice Centre, 14 Scholz Avenue, Nuriootpa for a lantern making workshop ($5 per child or $10 per family; all materials provided). At 5pm traditional German fare (Würstchen und Sauerkraut, Streuselkuchen) will be on sale with free tea and coffee, Apfelschorle and Glühwein.

At 6pm, after the sun has set, the children (and accompanying adults) with their lanterns and singing the lantern songs they have been taught will parade along the Barossa Village streets.

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