Thursday, November 11, 2004

St. Martin

Being brought up with a protestant background, I usually don't care about saints and their anniversary days. But Martin (November 11th) has always been a bit of an exception, maybe because he was the patron of Martin Luther, maybe because my grandma had a liking for him (she wasn't so strict in these respects) or maybe as there are a couple of nice customs associated with this day.

Today, on my way to work, I heard a radio progam on Deutschlandfunk, the nation wide public radio, from which I learnt some factoids that I would like to share with the blogsphere.

The historic Martin was born as a roman (the name relates to Mars, the roman god of war) in the fourth century and started out as an officer in the roman army but later turned christian an became a archbishop in Tour, France. As such he of course was also a political figure and after his death in 397 was the first saint that did not die as a martyr.

His day is Martini, November 11th, which later became the last day of the peasant fiscal year: On this day, the contracts of farm labourers and servants ended and taxes, feud and leasehold had to be paid. It is also the beginning of a fourty day lent period and the way these things work was celebrated with a feast. This is the origin of the tradition to have a roast goose on Martini and for childern to have processions with hand lanterns. In some regions, this is also the day on which this year's wine is drunk for the first time.

Finally, 11/11 is the first day of the "fifth season", the carneval period that culminates in the days before the spring lent in February. But at least this custom is too Catholic for me to notice...

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