Martinmas Lanterns

Photo by Anja W.

Photo by Anja W.

St. Martin’s Day is a big deal in Germany, just like trick-or-treating is in the US. I really like seeing cute kids go from house to house or from shop to shop with lanterns, sing songs, and get sweets or a pastry called Martinih√∂rnchen, which reminds me of a croissant.

I didn’t know of St. Martin’s day ¬†until I came to Germany. I know the word Martinmas, thanks to the novel Pillars of the Earth.

In Catholic parts of Germany, Martinmas refers to November 10, the day of St. Martin de Tours, a Roman soldier turned preacher/monk who saw God after giving a freezing beggar half of his cape. In Protestant parts of Germany, it is November 11, after Martin Luther’s birthday, the founder of the Protestant movement.

As a parent of a German child it is obligatory (!) that I make/buy a lantern. Common Martin lantern themes are heavenly bodies. This year, I made another one, and it was so easy.

You need:

Three A4 sized card paper/cartolina (available in Germany in different colors)

Colorful tissue paper (known in the Philippines as papel de japon)


String or twine

Step 1: Glue the bottom (last 1/2 inch) of the A4 paper. Stick the top edge (also the top 1/2 inch) of the second A4 paper onto it. Then you have a long sheet of paper.

Step 2: On the new bottom edge of the very long sheet of paper, make a fold/crease the last 1/2 inch of the bottom part of your paper.

Step 3: Fold the long sheet of paper in half. The edge of the paper should be even to where the crease is. Then fold that again in half. You should have four equal sides, with the crease forming a 1/2 inch “lip.”

Step 4: Draw easy patterns on the side of the paper that will be the “inside” of the lamp. Common themes are the moon, sun, and stars. Poke a hole in the middle, and cut out the patterns.

Step 5: Glue the edges of the cut-out figures. Cut up the tissue paper to fit and place over the glue-lined holes.

Step 6: Close the lantern by gluing the 1/2 inch crease and sticking it onto the other edge of the paper.

Step 7: Trace the square lantern over your 3rd piece of card paper, leaving a 1/4 inch allowance around it. Cut the square out, cut the corners of the square, and fold the edges inwards.

Step 8: Glue the edges and stick it inside the lamp. This is your lamp “base”

Step 9: The rest of the paper can be cut evenly into a 5 to 7 inch long strip. Poke two small holes 7 inches apart, and cut out a big hole about 2 inches in diameter in the middle. fold the paper to make it fit into the lantern, the paste the folds and stick on the top edge of the lamp. Wait to dry. When dry, you can thread the string through the small holes and tie the edges so it won’t slip through. The big hole is for the electric “fishing pole lamp” that is available in Germany at this time.

I’m going to brave the cold November night to walk around town begging for sweets. Have fun!

Photo by Anja W.

Photo by Anja W.

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