Each year, on 11 November, the feast day of St. Martin (Sint Maarten) of Tours is celebrated. Primarily a Catholic celebration, it originated in France and then spread through parts of Europe. In some places, it is marked as the beginning of harvest and is sometimes celebrated with a large feast. In many other countries, including the Netherlands, it is marked mainly by children going through neighborhoods, carrying lanterns, singing songs about the saint, and often going door-to-door in the hopes of receiving candy.
Interest in the festivities and the saint varies from place to place, but it’s fairly prominent here in Utrecht, since St. Martin is the patron saint of the city. There has been a church dedicated to St. Martin in the Domplein, in one form or another, since the missionary Willibrord built a church dedicated to the saint in 700 AD. The story of the saint sharing his coat with a beggar is also the inspiration for Utrecht’s coat of arms.
There are a variety of St. Martin festivities, particularly for children, here in Utrecht, including a lamp-lit parade. The large St. Martin in my pictures actually lights up at night and is part of the parade. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos, but you can see a nice one here.
If you’d like to learn a bit more about who St. Martin was, there’s a concise (English) biography found here as well as additional links and information (in Dutch)