Living in Germany I soon realised that November is a very busy and important month in the calendar.
All Hallows (Alleheiligen) on 1st November has almost been overshadowed by the introduction of Halloween which, incidently, no-one had heard of before we arrived!
For me there is nothing more special than a visit to a German cemetery on a dark November evening to see the lit red candles which are traditionally put on the grave to remember a loved one. My father died in 1997 and it felt fitting to place a lantern on his grave in England. I am very lucky that my Aunt and Uncle light a candle when they visit my parents’ grave. I have this image in my mind of the red candle flickering in the dark graveyard on the hill where my ancestors are buried.
Of course, this is the time in Germany to remember St. Martin -a Roman soldier who gave up part of his cloak to a beggar. The children love the tradition of the Sanktmartinsfest when they follow St Martin on his dappled horse. The procession of the singing children with their homemade paper lanterns is a German festival which is here to stay.
For some people 11. 11 (Elfter Elfter) at 11 minutes past 11 signifies the beginning of Carnival (Karnivalzeit). In cities like Cologne people start the celebration in true style; in fancy dress costumes and drinking the odd beer. 11 is a multidigit or in German a “Schnapszeil”- so called because a person who is drunk often sees double – quite appropriate for this time of year!
Poppy Day(Remembrance Sunday)
In England most people associate this month with either, Bonfire Night or the red flower called the poppy.
On the Sunday nearest 11th November people in Britain go to church wearing a poppy to remember those who died in wars. This is the date when armistice was declared after World War One.
Do you know why the poppy is used as a symbol of remembrance?
Poppies are mentioned in a WWI poem by John McCrae („In Flanders Fields“) and describes how these flowers grew on the war fields in Belgium. Today the paper poppies are sold to collect money for charity.
In 2014 there was a fantastic piece of art showing a sea of poppies at the Tower of London. This was to commemorate 100 years since the start of WWI. There were 888,246 ceramic poppies which represented the number of men killed in this terrible war.
Last Sunday (2018) was a very memorable and poignant day because it was 100 years since the end of WWI. At the Cenotaph in London members of the Royal family, British government and representives of the Commonwealth laid wreaths of poppies at the foot of the war memorial. What was significant was that The German Federal President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also present. The first time that a German leader has been present and a sign of conciliation between two once warring countries. About time in my opinion.