November 11 is known as the Saint Martin’s Day. What customs are observed by Czech people and what can you hear about St. Martin?
It is a day in which people not only remember and honor St. Martin of Tours, but is also a day traditionally associated with the fall harvest. In the Czech Republic, it is time for the traditional Czech Goose Dinner.
The holiday has its roots in the Eastern Byzantine Church, where the fast before Christmas, the quadragesima Sancti Martini, still measures up to 40 days. And begins the day after the feast of St. Martin.
St. Martin’s festivities begin with the uncorking of fresh wine at 11:00 in the morning on November 11 in cellars and other wine merchants across the country.
The traditional St. Martin’s dish is a roast goose with red cabbage and dumplings. This is, of course, accompanied by a glass of young wine. Older Bohemian recipes also include stuffing the goose with apples.
Finally, Martinmas also heralds the arrival of winter, is seen in the Czech saying: “Martin přijíždí na bílém koni” “Martin is arriving on a white horse.” The arrival of Martin on a white horse will be the highpoint of many of celebrations across the Czech Republic today. Apart from his literal and dramatic arrival on horseback, the white horse is a metaphor for the snow that will soon start to fall.
St. Martin’s Wine
St. Martin’s wine is taken from the first wine produced in the current growing year. It should be refreshing, a bit dry, fruity in nature and of a relatively low alcohol content.
Traditionally, the new wine is seen as an indicator of the quality of the rest of the year’s wine production will possess. It is intended for immediate consumption and not to be aged.
St. Martin´s celebrations are particularly popular with children, who create colorful handmade lanterns. After darkness falls, kids participate in lantern processions and sing songs. The parades are organized in many Prague quarters and locations including Riegrovy sady and Vyšehrad fortress.
Lively celebrations take place on the Vltava river bank, in Náplavka, and include music, and traditional culinary delights.