St. Martin is the patron saint of beggars, drunkards, and the poor.
His feast day falls during the wine harvest in Europe, he is also the patron saint of wine growers and innkeepers.
In the agricultural calendar it marks the beginning of the natural winter, but in the economic calendar it is seen as the end of autumn. Because it comes before the penitential season of Advent, it is seen as a mini “carnivale,” with feasting and bonfires.
St. Martin’s Feast is much like the American Thanksgiving – a celebration of the earth’s bounty.
Tradition says that if it snows on the feast of St. Martin, November 11, then St. Martin came on a white horse and there will be snow on Christmas day. However, if it doesn’t snow on this day, then St. Martin came on a dark horse and it will not snow on Christmas.
Children often dress up and go around with lanterns as beggars for sweets. Sound like Halloween?
How to Celebrate Martinmas
Make a Lantern
I love these examples of homemade lanterns:
St. Martin’s Bags
Ġewż, Lewż, Qastan, Tin
Kemm inħobbu lil San Martin.
Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Figs
I very much love Saint Martin.
Give to the Poor
Donating clothing to the poor is in remembrance of St. Martin cutting his cloak in half for the beggar during a snowstorm.
Pray for Military
St. Martin was a Roman soldier and November 11th is Armistice Day and Veterans Day.
Always festive in autumn.
Martinmas is the end of fall harvest, so breads and cakes are common.
Pretzels, croissants, and horseshoe-shaped almond sweets represent St. Martin’s white horse.
Goose is often eaten in Germany.
The legend goes that whilst trying to avoid being ordained bishop, St Martin hid in a goose pen only to be betrayed by the squawking of the geese. Around Europe, many people still celebrate Martinmas with roast goose dinners.
Beef is popular in Ireland and the UK.
If the wind is in the south-west on St Martin’s Day (11th), it will stay there right through to Candlemas in February, thus ensuring a mild and snow-free winter.
“Wind north-west at Martinmas, severe winter to come.”
“If ducks do slide at Martinmas
At Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Martinmas
At Christmas they will slide”
“Thunder in November means winter will be late in coming and going”
“If the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas.”
Ice before Martinmas,
Enough to bear a duck.
The rest of winter,
Is sure to be but muck!”
É dia de São Martinho;
comem-se castanhas, prova-se o vinho.
It is St. Martin’s Day,
we’ll eat chestnuts, we’ll taste the wine.
A cada cerdo le llega su San Martín.
Every pig gets its St Martin. The phrase is used to indicate that wrongdoers eventually get their comeuppance.
Martinmas celebrations begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:11 am on November 11).
- Martin of Tours: Soldier, Bishop, Saint by Regine Pernoud
- Sword and the Cape by Pamela Love
- Snow on Martinmas by Heather Sleightholm
- Martin of Tours: The shaping of Celtic Christianity by Christopher Donaldson
- The Life of St Martin of Tours by Suplitius Severus
- Saint Martin of Tours by Saint Suplitius Serverus