Maybe you don’t know that 11st of November is the St. Martin’s Feast in Europe!
According to the legend, St. Martin was a kind and compassionate person. Once upon a time, in a cold and rainy day, he met a beggar shivering in the street. The saint immediately looked after him by cutting his cloak with the sword, offering one of the two parts to the old man in order to shelter from the cold.
St. Martin is one of the saints who, during the Middle Ages, was more popular and for this reason it’s celebrated in many European countries.
In Denmark and Sweden, but also in many other European countries, on the occasion of St. Martin’s celebration, it’s tradition to eat a goose.
This habit is linked to a curious legend. It is said that the inhabitants of Tours (France) wanted to appoint Martin as bishop of the city, even without his approval. The saint, aware of their intentions, tried to hide himself in a henhouse of a monastery. The geese, seeing a stranger among them, began to squawk revealing its hiding place to the inhabitants. It’s for this reason that, as punishment, the meals of 11 November have as a main course roasted goose.
Let’s start with the Czech Republic, with a particular attention to the Bohemia region. Here, on St. Martin’s Day, people use the goose to predict the future. After eating the goose, the animal’s bones are carefully observed: if they are clear, a short and mild winter is expected, while if they are dark it’s foreseen a rainy and cold winter.
Even if the history of the saint is closely related to the French territory (he died here in 397 BC, was bishop of the city of Tours, and for a long time he was the only patron saint of France), in this country St. Martin’s Day is not a day to celebrate. The only exception is the Alsace region, where children attending the Franco-German schools, use to parade for the Fête de la Saint-Martin with their
hand-held lanterns through the streets of the city, as their German neighbours.
Every year, on November 11st, along the German streets you can hear children singing “Laterne Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne” (lanterns, lanterns, sun, moon and stars).
In Germany, the feast of St. Martin is very appreciated, especially by children, who take part in a procession of coloured paper lanterns, singing songs dedicated to the saint. The procession, sometimes, is headed by a man on horseback dressed in a uniform of a Middle Ages soldier. According to the German tradition, on the evening of 10 November, after having built and lighted their lantern up, they participate in a joyful procession called Laternenumzug. These groups of children knock door to door singing and asking for tasty treats or even some pennies.
Obviously, also in these areas goose is eaten on this day, perhaps filled with apples, chestnuts glazed with honey, and raisins.
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In Italy, St. Martin is celebrated in many cities through festivals and popular fairs. The atmosphere in Venice is special, where children go around the streets of the city banging pots and pans to make a lot of noise, and asking to the sound of rhymes for some candies or money.
In the Venetian houses the traditional sweet pastry, with the shape of the saint on horseback, all covered with coloured icing, chocolate, sweets and chocolates, is a must. A real delicacy! If you want to make your children happy prepare the St. Martin’s Cake with them, by following this simple recipe.
On the other hand, adults celebrate this day by opening the barrels for the first taste of the new wine, excellent with chestnuts. From this tradition derives the motto “a San Martino ogni mosto diventa vino!“, literally “For St. Martin’s day each must becomes wine!”
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