St. Martin’s feast, also known as “Martinmas” in Europe arrives in autumn, the beginning of the wine harvest. This was also the time of slaughter of the stock for winter meat. His images are usually depicted with a goose, symbolizing that Martinmas was the last festive meal before Advent, because in France in the Middle Ages, the strict 40 day Advent fast (called Quadragesima Sancti Martini or Forty Days’ Fast of Saint Martin’s) began the next day. So in past centuries November 11 was celebrated as a thanksgiving day. Thus it was the custom to have “St. Martin’s goose” and taste the new wine (“Saint Martin’s Wine”) on his feast day. A quick spell of warm weather around his feast day (usually termed “Indian Summer” in the US) is known as “St. Martin’s Little Summer” in Europe.
Patron: Against impoverishment; against poverty; alcoholism; beggars; Burgenland; cavalry; equestrians; France; geese; horse men; horses; hotel-keepers; innkeepers; Mainz, Germany; quartermasters; reformed alcoholics; riders; soldiers; tailors; vintners; wine growers; wine makers.
Symbols: Horse; sword and coat cut in halves; goose; scourge; hare; broken images; chair in flames; demon at his feet; globe of fire;
Often Portrayed As: Man on horseback sharing his cloak with beggar; man cutting cloak in half.
Things to Do:
- Recite the Iste Confessor in honor of St. Martin.
- Go through your closet and purge your wardrobe of unnecessary or surplus items and donate them to St. Vincent de Paul Society or some other organization that helps the poor.
- Cook a special dinner of roast goose or duck in honor of St. Martin. Bake some horseshoe cookies.
- In Europe this day is traditionally known as Martinmas. Many foods and traditions are connected with this day. See also Women for Faith and Family for more Catholic traditions. For a children’s perspective and craft project of paper lanterns for the St. Martin’s Parade, see Fun Social Studies on St. Martin.
- St. Martin is patron saint of wine growers, wine makers and vintners. In France, the tasting of the new wine is done today. Have a Martinmas gathering, serving this year’s Noveau Beaujolais wine from France.
- Read Painting Angels, Saints and Their Symbols for a discussion about St. Martin’s symbols in art.
- For more biographies and other information on St. Martin, read Patron Saints Index.
- This page has a nice collection of art of St. Martin of Tours.
- Read Wilson’s Almanac for more secular traditions related to this day.
Source: Catholic Culture