Saint Martin's Day

The Martin Day’s folk traditions are linked to the end of the year, the end of agricultural work and the starting time of Advent.

Legend says that Saint Martin tried to hide in a goose hutch when people wanted him as a bishop, but the geese unfortunately betrayed him with their giggling.

In Roman times 11th of November was the first day of the winter quarter. For this they held a great feast of new fruits and wine. They consumed geese, the holy bird of the God of War, Mars, in latin: ”Avis Martin”. It became, in popular term, the ”The Bird of Martin”.

Even before the Conquest, Saint Martin was honoured in Pannonia. According to a tradition Martin helped St. Stephen and the country in his dream. After Virgin Mary, Saint Martin of Tours became the patron of Hungary.

Martin’s Day is the last day before the 40 days of tassel leading up to Christmas. Beacause of this feasts, balls and fairs were regular on that day. Feasting is also favoured the fact that, according to a tradition, it was not allowed to clean, wash or take a bath on this day, as it was the believed cause of the cattle’s death.

Martin’s Day food are typically goose dishes, soups from goose, goose steak with steamed cabbage, and rolled potato dumplings as a melody says: ”Whoever doesn’t eat goose on Martin’s Day is starving throughout the year.” It was customary to send goose meat to the priest, especially from its back, hence the term ” Episcopal Bite”.
After the dinner people usually clapped with Martin’s Day glass, which is the new wine that has just matured in November. It was believed that the more they drink, the more they will absorb strength and health.

The weather was predicted from the roasted goose’s sternum. If the bone is brown and short the winter will be muddy, and if the bone was white and long then the winter will be snowy.

In the Chronicles of the 14th century, Saint Martin’s Day was a deadline. This was the day of the renewal of the officers, the payment deadline, and the settlement of the serfdom debt. Martin’s Day salary was included among priests, teachers and pastors. These previous liabilities were later forgotten and turned into giftings. 

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