Sint Maarten’s Fest

Sint Maarten Parade
It’s the time of year when the Sint Maarten Feest (St. Martin’s festival) takes place around town for about a week. There are theater groups, activities, plays, parades, and tonight there is a sort of trick-or-treat activity, in which little kids go around with lanterns singing songs and receiving candy.

It’s all in celebration of St. Martin of Tours. He was remembered for slicing off half of his military cloak in order to give it to a beggar in rags (the military didn’t allow him to give the whole cloak away). That night he had a dream that Jesus was wearing the half cloak saying that Martin had clothed him. Some versions of the story also have the cloak being whole once again when he awoke. Regardless, all of this was supposed to have played a major role in Martin being confirmed in his piety and being baptized.

St. Martin is a well-known Catholic saint and in fact, the cathedral in Utrecht is named for him. He’s also the patron saint of Utrecht and his sliced cloak of red and white is the symbol/shield of Utrecht. The lantern festivities aren’t just here in Utrecht, though obviously it’s particularly popular here.

Last weekend there was a parade with some truly beautiful and impressive lanterns of all sorts of figures and creatures, including a large St. Martin on his horse that lights up beautifully. Sadly, it was starting to rain and the crowds of running, yelling children were getting Charlie a bit anxious, so we didn’t get to see the parade with the lit lanterns, but we saw some of the preparation and enjoyed the other sights and sounds, including some great samba-like drumming. You can see more photos of all of the festivities on the official website and you can see a video of the drumming on my blog’s Facebook page.
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade

The Story of a Soldier’s Coat

Utrecht
I love this little corner of the Wittevrouwenkade/straat. During the summer, the lion holding the Utrecht city shield almost disappears from view behind the leaf-filled branches, but during this time of year, he’s visible with just the hint of leaves to come. The diagonals of red and white are the flag/coat of arms of Utrecht the City (the province flag has the same colors but differs in design). Here’s the story behind the colors and design:

 

According to the legend St. Martin gave the half of his red soldiers coat to an almost naked beggar. The beggar asked for an alms, but Martinus did not have any money and he was not allowed to give his complete coat. That is why he took his sword and cut his coat in two parts. At night he had a special dream. The beggar with the half of his red coat appeared to him and he was told that he had shared his coat with Jesus himself.

The coat of arms and the flag of the city of Utrecht demonstrate the story of the coat’s partition. The red part is the coat, the white part is the undergarment of St. Martin. The official banner in the city hall of Utrecht shows us the red/white division. (Source: stmaartenstadutrecht).