This is the 15th day since our arrival. When I write it like that, I’m surprised. It feels longer. A month perhaps.
We have an apartment, but we won’t move in till the 15th. We have a bank account but no money in it till Bill gets paid in a week. We have ordered a bed and a mattress which will be delivered in six weeks. We’re about to order the TV/Internet/cellphones which are somewhat legendary to take two to four weeks before becoming fully functional. Everything takes the time it takes here, and that time is usually not tomorrow.
A quarter till 10 a.m. on this Sunday morning and two church bells are calling us toward God. Now, its three voices singing out, “come now, come now, come now…. ” That’s still enough time to go find your shoes, your umbrella, your overcoat.
Today is also the feast of St. Martin, a new feast day I’m falling completely in love with. We first noticed little groups of kindergarten and younger children toddling down a street in the evening with paper lanterns hanging off the end of a stick on Thursday evening. On Friday, I watched a larger group circle the local block.
Traditionally, according to Wikipedia, St. Martin’s day was a feast day, the last day before beginning the forty days of fast proceeding Christmas. Advent, before Christmas became the hap-hap-happiest day of the year, was a much more somber and longer time set aside for self-examination. It was also the day when farming based cultures turned the seasonal calendar to winter. By this date, the harvest was in and the cows and pigs who were to be slaughtered and turned into sausage and corned beef had met their fate. Now it is the season to sharpen the tools, to sleep, to tell stories and to wait till the earth warms again.
St. Martin was a Roman soldier who became a Christian and a monk. He once encountered a beggar in a snowstorm and cut his cloak in half so that the beggar would not freeze to death. It became traditional that children, holding lanterns, would follow someone mounted on a horse around the village, singing songs and getting candy. There is also a tradition of lighting a bonfire and timing the celebration for not just the 11th day of the 11th month but also the 11th minute of the 11th hour.
Which is also the moment Germany signed the Armistice Agreement that ended World War I.
Which doesn’t seem to come up for discussion or notice in the news around here.
I’ve always thought that Dec 21st was way late to declare the official start of winter. This may make the astronomers happy, but I think Nov 11th is a more realistic date for the actual feel of winter. It is noticeably darker at 5 p.m. here. Sunset comes, behind clouds, by 5:30 and we’re still a month away from solstice.
I like the idea of kids just walking and singing for their candy rather than the flirtations with gore that Halloween has taken on. Bringing light to help find the beggars who need to be warmer. I like the idea that we go into winter keeping in mind that we need to be concerned about who is left to stand in a snow storm.
I find myself wondering if this is a is a tradition we should consider adopting. I find myself asking if this isn’t a good way to remember war and the soldiers’ sacrifice when we train our children to walk behind a solider on a horse, not with guns in their hands but with a light instead, searching for the lost and cold and hungry.
There is much to be remembered.