St. Martin's day alias Old Halloween


Saint Martin's Day (Martinmas), sometimes  called Old Halloween is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours and is celebrated  on 11 November. In the Middle Ages and early modern period, it was an important festival in many parts of Europe. In these regions, it marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. 

Martin of Tours (died 397) was a Roman soldier who was baptized as an adult and became a bishop in Gaul. He is best known for the tale whereby he cut his cloak in half with his sword, to give half to a beggar who was dressed in only rags in the depth of winter.

Each country has their own customs. Martinmas was traditionally when livestock were slaughtered for winter provision. It may originally have been a time of animal sacrifice. Goose or duck is eaten at Martinmas in most places. In the peasant community, not everyone could afford goose, so many ate duck or hen instead. I personally like better duck than goose... In some German and Dutch-speaking towns, there are nighttime processions of children carrying paper lanterns or turnip lanterns and singing songs of St. Martin. Bonfires are lit on St. Martin's Eve in the Rhineland region of Germany. In the fifteenth century, these bonfires were so numerous that the festival was nicknamed Funkentag (spark day). Apparently, in some parts of Ireland, on the eve of St. Martin's Day (Lá Fhéile Mártain in Irish), it was tradition to sacrifice a cockerel by bleeding it. The blood was collected and sprinkled on the four corners of the house. It's quite spooky tradition! :)

In the Czech lands we have a proverb connected with the Feast of St. Martin – Martin přijíždí na bílém koni ("Martin is coming on a white horse") – signifies that the first half of November in the Czech Republic is the time when it often starts to snow. St. Martin's Day is the traditional feast day in the run-up to Advent. Restaurants often serve roast goose as well as young wine from the recent harvest known as Svatomartinské víno ("St.Martin's wine"), which is similar to Beaujolais nouveau as the first wine of the season. Wine shops and restaurants around Prague pour the first of the St. Martin's wines at 11:11 a.m. Many restaurants offer special menus for the day, featuring the traditional roast goose or duck. 

Happy St. Martin's feast!