Saint Martin’s Day: Origin and legends

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Surely many of you will be familiar with the phrase “every pig gets its San Martín.” This popular saying comes from an old Irish tradition: Martinmas or Saint Martin’s Day, which is celebrated to mark the time when the Fall wheat crop should be harvested, every November 11. In addition, it was the moment in which the animals that had been fattened should be sacrificed to serve as food.

Although this year has been particularly different due to the pandemic in which we find ourselves, it is a tradition that can continue to be celebrated. Of course, in a different way. At the end of October, the Irish government decreed a nationwide curfew in order to curb the rate of infections. This lockdown affects the closure of stores and restaurants for, at the moment, six weeks.

However, each family can carry out their own celebration of San Martín in their homes. Of course, always complying with safety regulations and, above all, buying in local businesses. Although it will be different this year, there are many ways to enjoy and celebrate this party tomorrow. Do you want to know more about it? Keep reading!

Origin of tradition

Martín de Tours was a Roman soldier who, when he came across a poor and abandoned man on his way, decided to shed his own cloak and offer it to him as an act of kindness and charity. From this action he undergoes a spiritual and religious conversion, being elected in 372 as Bishop of Tours. He died in 397 and it is common to find him represented in images on horseback, where he cuts and shares his cape with the beggar.

Since his sanctification, one of the most anticipated festivities was born in the month of November in several European countries. Specifically, in Ireland the festival usually begins on the 10th, on the eve of Saint Martin, also known as Martinmas.

What is Martinmas?

This festival takes place precisely at a time when the harvests are ending and, therefore, the banquets are not long in coming. The days are getting shorter, the wheat has been harvested and the cattle examined. On that closing date of the cycles, the slaughter of the fattened animals during the year was also prepared.

Although this ancient tradition originally had pagan overtones, little by little it was fused with the religious festivals. In fact, between the 4th century and the Middle Ages, it was common in Europe to perform a 40-day fast that began precisely on November 11. This was known as “the 40 days of San Martín”. Later, it became the Advent period.

Legends around the Festivity of San Martín

It is said that prior to his appointment as bishop, San Martín decided, as an act of humility, to hide on a farm. But when he did so, he did not realize that there was a group of geese, who betrayed his presence and squawked alerting the owners.

This historical figure is linked to acts of kindness and charity, which is why he is considered the patron saint of the underprivileged.

Saint Martin’s Day

November 11 marks a milestone on the European calendar, especially for agricultural preparation that precedes winter. This date also marked a time of abundance. And in Ireland the classic baked goose of St. Martin became traditional.

Within the old Irish celebrations, a goose or rooster was even sacrificed and their blood was used to cover the four corners of the houses or the building. Another tradition that also exists is that no wheel should be turned during Saint Martin’s Day, under the belief that the saint was tortured on a mill wheel (although he was not actually a martyr and died of old age).

Finally, the county of Wexford legend tells that a fleet of fishermen was warned by San Martín himself, who, walking on the water, told them that they should return, although the weather appeared to be good. Shortly thereafter, a terrible storm broke out and those who did not pay attention drowned. And you, how are you going to celebrate this November 11? Happy Saint Martin’s Day!

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