November 11 is known as Saint Martin’s Day. What customs are observed by Czech people and what can you hear about St. Martin?
There is a famous Czech proverb related to the Feast of St. Martin: Martin přijíždí na bílém koni. (English: Martin is coming on a white horse.)
The reason is simple – the first half of November is the time when the first snow comes to the Czech Republic.
“According to the folk saying, if St. Martin does not arrive on a white horse, but on a dark gray one, we will have constantly changing winter weather ahead of us,” said Dagmar Honsová of the Meteopress weather company.
However, for many Czechs, St. Martin’s Day is primarily about good food and drinks. Traditionally, the feast consists of baked goose and St. Martin’s wine, as well as cakes made specifically for this occasion.
Even though the holiday is popular across the Czech Republic, a survey conducted by Ipsos shows that St. Martin’s Day is most often celebrated by people in the South Moravian region and the Highlands region as well as by people from larger cities and university graduates.
Who was St. Martin?
Supposedly, Saint Martin was a kind man with a quiet and simple life. The best-known legend about him says that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm to save the beggar from dying of the cold.
That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus saying to the angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clothed me.” St. Martin is one of the major saints of the Catholic Church, known as a friend of children a the patron of the poor. Honoring him with a variety of festivals is common not only in many countries.
This can be considered as the European Thanksgiving
We know that from the 14th Century the celebration at the end of the harvest followed by the eating of a goose had spread east from France into what is now Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
November 11th also coincides with what is called the “Natural” start of winter.
Previously known as St Martins feast as in Medieval times this would begin a process of animal slaughtering, including geese, to store food for the coming winter and briefly improve the diet of the workers.
The last farming job of the year, the clearing and planting of wheat crops mark the time when from St Martin’s, the men would now do less arable work and more forest work.