Some primary schools and daycare centres in the region of Dusseldorf, Germany have renamed the Christian festival of Saint Martin’s the ‘festival of lights’ to appease the children of Turkish immigrants and newly arrived ‘refugees’.
The Acting Headmistress of Salesian Montessori Community School in Oberkassel, Nanette Weidelt, told the Rheinische Post that the new name had been adopted, “in order to facilitate integration”.
St. Martin’s Day, also known as the Feast of St. Martin, is a traditional autumn event in the Christian calendar, held on the 11th on November after the harvest.
A long-established custom is for communities to gather around a bonfire on St. Martin’s eve, called “Martinsfeuer,” followed by a lantern procession through the local conurbation.
The head of the German Red Cross in Gerresheim said her institution had also made the change: “We have deliberately chosen [the new name] because we want the meaning of integration and unity to reach as many children as possible, and because more people will participate in our procession”.
Not all schools are in agreement, however. The director of Sun Road primary school in Dusseldorf, said: “Especially our Muslim parents appreciate the traditional lore of the Martin procession and the celebration of St. Martin will stay”.
Similarly, Kerstin Breuer, head of Urban Street School in Kita Velberter, Oberbilk, said: “We celebrate St. Martin and not ‘Festival of Lights.’ This was the parent’s decision as well.” She said that 90 of the 100 children at the school came from immigrant families, about three-quarters of whom are Muslim.
Left wing politicians have been attempting to amend the celebration for a number of years. In 2013, Rüdiger Sagel, of The Left of North Rhine-Westphalia party, insisted the change was a necessary response to the “high proportion of Muslim children in the day care centres”.
“You should not impose the Christian tradition”, he asserted.
In October this year, the Bishop of Stockholm proposed a church in her diocese remove all Christian symbols and put down markings showing the direction to Mecca for the benefit of Muslim worshippers.