A Light in the World on St. Martin’s Day (Lanternenfest)

Although St. Martin's Day (Lanternenfest) is not known by many outside of the German community, the celebration is a yearly custom at Silicon Valley International School (INTL) thanks to the work and dedication of the German Program from the youngest in the Early Years and Elementary School all the way through Middle School and High School

The celebration and lantern parade are in remembrance of St. Martin of Tours, who became a saint due to his devotion to caring and kindness. He became most famous for the story of him splitting his cloak in two to give half to a beggar during a snowstorm. The story is told every year on this celebratory day to share his message of compassion and care that spans nationality and culture.

The elementary school students put on an assembly and play to teach about St. Martin for the rest of the school.

Using the festivities of the day to teach, the Elementary German Program students put on a pair of assemblies for the rest of the school on Cohn Campus. Students put on a musical play to teach about the life of St. Martin and his devotion to giving and caring for others (caring is a key pillar of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile). After finishing the play, the German students led the rest of the classmates on a lantern parade around campus to show off the lanterns they had made in class earlier in the week.

“This tradition, I really only experienced during my years teaching at the school,” said Carol Ferrieri​, 1st Grade German teacher. “I never had it growing up since I also grew up in the US. When we do this tradition at school, I like the warmth of the glowing lanterns and the sense of community.”

Upper School students and faculty putting on a shadow puppet play telling the story of St. Martin.

As day turned to night, the celebration shifted to Willows Campus where the Upper School German Program students as well as faculty hosted the Early Years students from across all language programs for a final celebration. The young students were presented with the story of St. Martin in both English and German, which was illustrated through a delightful shadow-puppet show by the German Program faculty. 

Students with their handmade lanterns parading around the campus at night.

The night finished with the customary lantern procession through the park next to the campus as the kids paraded around with their handmade lanterns while singing songs including the traditional lantern song, Ich geh mit meiner Laterne (I Walk with My Lantern). At the end of the parade, students were treated to traditional Weckmänner, a sweet yeast dough creation in the shape of little men, as well as hot apple cider.

A father and his daughter enjoying their traditional St. Martin's day treats.

In addition to the festivities throughout the day, the students put to practice the lessons learned from the life of St. Martin as the Student Council announced the start of their community outreach initiative in which they will collect clothing and personal goods for the homeless for the month (Nov. 10th - Dec. 16th). The Student Council and school partnered with the non-profit WeHOPE of East Palo Alto, an organization dedicated to helping people become healthy, employed, and housed in the area.

Student Council holding their WeHope signs in front of the donation bin.

The PTA St. Martin’s Parade (Laternenfest) is just one of the many cultural celebrations that students take part in at INTL throughout the year. For prospective families, Contact Admissions today to get more information on how your child can benefit from INTL’s global community and rigorous international education.