July 17th 2022:
The Barossa German Language Group is dedicated to keeping the German traditions and language alive in the Barossa. One beautiful German tradition which they are celebrating this week is the Lanternenfeste – the Lantern festival.
This festival is held across Germany. Young children make lanterns, and process through the streets in the dark winter evening, swinging their lantern and singing traditional lantern themed songs. The procession finishes at a bonfire, with hot drinks for everybody – mulled wine for the adults, and perhaps hot chocolate for the children.
The Laternenfest is a secular version of Martinstag – a Christian celebration on 11th November held in honour of St Martin, a kindly Roman solider, who, legend would have it, gave half of his cloak to a beggar in a snowstorm and then, having dreamt about Jesus, got baptised as an adult. For this reason, the processions are often led by a man on a horse dressed up as St Martin. St Martin’s day came to signify the completion of winter preparations – harvesting, seeding, slaughtering. It was a time for people to eat their fattest cow or goose, depending on the region, to sing and be merry before beginning the long cold fast in the weeks until Christmas.
This charming illustration is from a German primer used in the Strait Gate Lutheran school in Light Pass in the early 1900’s. It belonged to EG Stolz. I don’t know if the community ever held a lanternfest (perhaps someone could tell me?), but they would certainly have known about the tradition. For many years, lessons at the school were taught in German. GJ Rechner was a strong advocate for children becoming proficient in English as well. During his 10 years as the schoolteacher at Immanuel school Light Pass in the 1850’s, he attended English classes himself in the evenings, and taught English to both children and adults in the Light Pass community.
If you’d like to listen to (or sing along to) the lantern songs, this site has the words and songs.