Celebrating St. Martin's Eve in the Utrecht region
Are you living in or near the Utrecht region? Do you have school-age children? Then early November is the time of year when you'll be aware of the charming traditions that surround November 11 in parts of the Netherlands. There will be special activities leading up to St. Martin’s Eve (Sint Maarten) in Utrecht!
Special events in Utrecht
In Utrecht, where St. Martin is the city’s Patron Saint, there are typically special activities in more than 30 locations in the days leading up to St. Martin’s Eve on November 11, as well as the day after. This year being an exceptional year due to coronavirus measures, means that St. Martin's celebrations will be very different, but there will still be plenty of fun to be had.
The programme of the St. Martin festivities in Utrecht include, amongst others a guided city tour of Utrecht, tracing St. Martin's footsteps and a St. Martin tour in Leidsche Rijn
St. Martin's Eve
St. Martin’s Eve, a children’s celebration that takes place every year on November 11, is a beloved event in some regions of the Netherlands, while it is virtually unknown in others. In specific areas, such as parts of North Holland and Groningen, children make lanterns and head out on the evening of the celebration to go door-to-door, singing St. Martin songs in exchange for candy.
Who was St. Martin?
St. Martin, or Sint Maarten in Dutch, was the bishop of Tours, France and lived in the 4th century. He is best known as a patron of the poor, for the good deeds he was said to have performed when he was in the Roman military.
The story goes that on a cold day, a beggar asked him for help. St. Martin tore his own cloak in half and shared it with the man. That night he had a dream, telling him that the beggar was Jesus. This led him to leave the army and pursue religion.
The feast day honouring St. Martin in the Netherlands is observed on the day he died, November 11. Read more about St. Martin in English on the St. Maarten website.
Is St. Martin celebrated near you?
The easiest way to find out if St. Martin is celebrated in your neighbourhood is by asking around the local schools and local residents or check out the St. Martin website (in Dutch).
Because the date is so close to Halloween, and some parts of the Netherlands are picking up the trick-or-treating tradition, most communities only celebrate one of the two events. This is good to know - this way you can make sure you have some candy in the house and won’t be caught off guard if your doorbell rings!