Lantern walk

Laternenfest 24th July

Bringing Light into a Dark World

by John Clarke

Many countries around the world have traditions associated with Winter, most often centring on fire and light. The ancient Persians and the Norsemen built bonfires; the English and Scots burned their Yule log. In Germany there is the lantern walk (Laternenlauf). Its history is uncertain, but like the others it probably began as a pagan ritual to drive away the evil spirits that dwell in darkness and summon the Spring with its sunshine, warmth and natural abundance.

It has over time become a children’s festival and occurs early in Winter rather than at the solstice. Children come together on St Martin’s Day (11 November) and make their own lanterns, which when darkness falls they carry, singing special lantern songs, through the streets of their town. The connection with St Martin, the soldier (and later bishop) who tore his cloak in half and shared it with a beggar, is another mystery.

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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