Martinmas: The Curious Lore Surrounding St. Martin’s Day (November 11)

A canonized saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Martin of Tours is revered across large swaths of Europe–including Protestant-majority northern European countries. Celebrations of his Feast Day on November 11 speak to a devotional cult that incorporates many curiously Pagan elements of great antiquity, indelibly ensconcing him in a meta folk consciousness channeled through traditions that aren’t about to die out any time soon. From Sweden to Spain, from England to the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, St. Martin’s Day/Martinmas/Martinstag/Sint-Maarten gives rise to seasonal celebrations that commemorate blood sacrifice and feasting (cattle, pork, and especially geese), the building of sacred fires (both bonfires and more controllable lantern-lit processions led by children), uncorking the season’s first wines, welcoming the start of winter, and singing in the streets for Halloween-like treats. Continue reading