St. Martin’s Day or Sint Maarten in Dutch is a popular children’s feast day in many parts of the Netherlands and it is celebrated on 11 November. 

Typically, in the early winter evening of 11 November, small groups of children can be heard going up and down the street singing songs and reciting poems. They hold small lanterns hollowed-out sugar beet or, more recently, made from paper or turnips on sticks in front of them as they knock on doors and sing songs or recite little poems hoping to receive candies in return, similar to Halloween, but not quite as commercial.


Can I ignore it?

It depends where you live. If you live in Noord-Holland Groningen, Drenthe, Friesland, Brabant or Limburg, it’s likely Sint Maarten will be celebrated in your town or village and, unless you do the Halloween trick of turning off all the lights and pretending you’re not home, you’ll probably have to join in. If you’ve got kids you won’t have a choice.

The best thing to do is to read my blog 😉 and know how it is celebrated.


What do I have to do?

If you’ve got young children, you’ll probably have to go with them. If you’re lucky they’ll do all the singing themselves and you won’t need to sing along.

If children go from door to door, you’ll need to have a tray of sweets and fruit at home and you’ll need to encourga their singing.



What do I need?

Your child will probably need a lantern, which, if you are lucky, they will make at school, the peuterspeelzaal or nursery. If they don’t make them at school, the peuterspeelzaal or nursery, you can buy or make a lantern. In our article crafting a lantern for Sint Maarten you will find a suggestion with instructions on how to make a lanterns.

You will need a light to put in the lantern. Local shops will probably sell these. If you can’t find them in the shops you can order them on the web.


You will need to get some sweets to offer to children that come to your house. Your local supermarket will probably have a special sweets-for-Sint-Maarten section. You can also give some fruit.

Typical treats include:

  • Sweets, such as chocolate or licorice
  • Fruits, such as mandarin oranges, apples and pears
  • Nuts
  • Oliebollen (fried tyical Dutch treats).
Sint Maarten
Candies by


Sint Maarten songs

What probably started as a custom that allowed impoverished children to beg for alms during the winter months has since become a fun holiday. There are no strict rules about what children may sinf or recite, and many kids make up their own songs, or songs that contain satirical sentences.

Sint Maarten wat is het koud (‘St. Martin, it is so cold’)

geef me een turfje of wat hout (‘give me some peat or wood’)

geef me een half centje (‘give me a half cent’)

dan ben je m’n beste ventje (‘and you’ll be my best friend’)

geef me een appel of een peer (‘give me an apple or a pear’)

dan kom ik het hele jaar niet meer (‘and you won’t see me again all year’)

Here is another traditional Sint-Maarten song:

Sinte Maarten krikske vuur, (St. Martin, make a cherry wood fire)

Leg de pannenkoeken op het vuur. (and put the pancakes on)

We hebben al zo lang gelopen (We’ve been walking for so long)

Nergens gaan de deuren open (and nobody’s opened their door)

Geef ons een pannekoek uit de pan. (give us a pancake hot from the pan).


My own kids always sing these 2 songs. As I am not native an don’t have an official translation, I will refer the Dutch texts:

“11 november is de dag 
dat mijn lichtje, 
dat mijn lichtje 
11 november is de dag 
dat mijn lichtje 
branden mag

Twaalf november is de dag 
dat ik mag snoepen 
dat ik mag snoepen
Twaalf november is de dag
dat ik mag snoepen de hele dag” 

“Sint Maarten, Sint Maarten
De koeien hebben staarten
De meisjes hebben rokjes aan
Daar komt Sint Martinus aan” 

“Sinte maarten mik-mak
mijn moeder is een dikzak
mijn vader is een dunnetje
geef me een pepermunnetje” 


Origins of Sint Maarten

Saint Martin’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Martin, Martinstag or Martinmas, is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours (Martin le Miséricordieux) and is celebrated on November 11 each year. This is the time when autumn wheat seeding was completed, and the annual slaughter of fattened cattle produced “Martinmas beef” Historically, hiring fairs were held where farm laborers would seek new posts.

So the origins of the feastday have to do with its proximity to the middle of winter. The cows had been brought in from the fields and households had started up their stoves against the winter cold. The children celebrated the last remnants of the summer harvest with candlelit processions, during which the adults would give them nuts and candy as a final treat before the darkest days of winter.

In the Netherlands in the past, poor people would visit farms on the 11th of November, to get food for the winter. In the 1600s, the city of Amsterdam held boat races on the lake IJ. 400 to 500 light craft, both rowing boats and sailboats, took part under the eyes of a vast crowd on the banks.


Hystory of Sint Maarten

Saint Martin of Tours started out as a Roman soldier then was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The best known legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying from the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is now baptised; he has clothed me.”

St. Martin was known as friend of the children and patron of the poor. This holiday originated in France, then spread to the Low Countries, the British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. It celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the end of the harvest. Bishop Perpetuus of Tours, who died in 490, ordered fasting three days a week from the day after Saint Martin’s Day (11 November). In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all days except Saturdays and Sundays from Saint Martin’s Day to Epiphany (the Feast of the Three Wise Men and the star, c.f. Matthew 2: 1-12) on January 6, a period of 56 days, but of 40 days fasting, like the fast of Lent. It was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin’s Lent).This period of fasting was later shortened and called “Advent” by the Church.

[Source: Wikipedia]