Among the plenty of festivities a Slovenian calendar has to offer is one of the most important one for all wine lovers - Martinovo or Martinmas.
This holiday, which falls on November 11th, traditionally marked the end of a farming year. It was considered the time to recompense, make amends and finish the year’s business. In shepherding areas it meant leaving the mountains and bringing the cattle back into the valleys. The regions famous for their wine production have celebrated Martinovo as the day when they get the first wine of the vintage.
These celebrations derive from the old pagan times, but were merged with the celebration of Saint Martin’s after the arrival of Christianity. Saint Martin of Tours lived in the 4th century AD and, while born in the area of today’s Hungary, he spent his childhood in Italy and most of his adult life in France - thus he is also considered a spiritual bridge across Europe.
In the vineyards. Source: Shutterstock
He started off as a Roman soldier and one of his most famous deeds, most commonly depicted with St. Martin, is when he cut his military red cloak in two upon seeing a beggar freezing in the streets and sharing the half with him. Although a soldier, he refused to fight and was eventually released from the army. He became a monk and for a while, he lived as a hermit. He impressed the city of Tours so much that the people made him the bishop.
At Martinmas, St. Martin is believed to turn the must into wine, which is why in a lot of places the wine gets “baptised” on this day. There are big festivities all around Slovenia which include a St. Martin’s feast: a goose filled with apples or chestnuts and red cabbage with mlinci as a side dish. It is said that St. Martin did not want to become a bishop and the citizens of Tours gave him this title against his wish. When he heard this news, he tried to hide amongst some geese but they gave his location away with their honking. Because of this betrayal, the geese are punished and must die on St. Martin’s Day.
Most popular depiction of St. Martin cutting his cloak in half and giving it to the beggar.
There are also quite a few old sayings about the weather on St. Martin’s day.
St. Martin's feast.
“If it is sunny on St. Martin’s, the winter will be harsh.”
“If the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas.”
“If it is freezing before St. Martin’s Day, there will be floods before Christmas.”
“If St. Martin’s Day is cloudy or foggy, the winter will be as mild as autumn.”
To become a part of these celebrations, a visitor to Slovenia doesn’t have to try hard. If you are not fortunate enough to get invited to a nice family feast, plenty of winegrowers welcome visitors to their cellars and there are big festivals all around the country. You can visit St. Martin’s Saturday in Ljubljana, St. Martin’s day celebration in Maribor, a festival in Goriška Brda, Martinovanje in Haloze, and many more.
Church of St. Martin in Šmartno, Goriška Brda. Source: Shutterstock
Pršu je pršu sveti Martin,
on ga je krstu, jaz ga bom pil!
St. Martin came at last,
He’ll baptise the wine & I’ll empty the glass.