Saint Martin’s Day 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

Saint Martin’s Day is a Christian festival which is annually celebrated on 11th November. This is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours, a baptized Roman soldier who became bishop of the French town.

The most notable of his saintly acts was when he had cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save him from the cold. That same night he had a vision of Jesus Christ wearing the half-cloak and saying to the angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is now baptised; he has clothed me.” 

Luminous processions are carried out on this day to celebrate the life of Saint Martin and to symbolise the holy light that keeps the darkness at bay. These celebrations reflect the hope and faith that Saint Martin inspired through his actions. 

Event Saint Martin’s Day
Date November 11, 2022
Day Friday
Significance This is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours.
Observed by World wide

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Saint Martin’s Day History: 

Throughout his life as a soldier, monk and bishop, Saint Martin was associated with miracles and strange occurrences that have influenced the way Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated today. Martin was born in 316 or 334 AD in Savaria in the region of Pannonia (in modern-day Hungary) but grew up in Northern Italy. He converted to Christianity at the age of 10, which was uncommon at the time as it was a minority faith, having only just been given the status of an official religion in the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine. As the son of a veteran officer, Martin was obliged to join an auxiliary cavalry unit. He continued to serve in the army until one life changing event. 

Just before a battle at Borbetomagus in Worms, Martin suddenly decided that his change of allegiance from the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate, to Christ meant that he could no longer continue to fight and receive his salary as a soldier. He was arrested for cowardice and thrown in prison; Martin then volunteered to fight unarmed in the front line, knowing that God would protect him. Before his superiors could agree, the opposing forces sued for peace and Martin was released. The incident for which he is most remembered also occurred when Saint Martin was a soldier. He was approaching the city of Amiens, in Gaul (France), where he met a naked beggar. Martin cut his riding cloak in half and offered half of it to the beggar. That night Martin had a vision of Jesus, clutching his cloak and telling angels that Martin had given it to him.  

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After leaving the army, Martin became a follower of Trinitarian Christianity (the belief in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct entities but are spiritually one force). After a disagreement over Christian beliefs in the Imperial Court, he was exiled from Illyria and went to live on an island as a hermit. He eventually returned to Gaul and established a hermitage there, which attracted many Christian converts. Martin continued to travel and preach throughout Gaul, and there are many stories of him performing miracles on his travels – on one occasion he resurrected three men from the dead. 

In 371 AD, Martin was tricked into visiting city of Tours. He was summoned to help the sick but, on his arrival, he was taken to the church and consecrated as a bishop. According to the stories, Martin tried to run from this position and hid in a barn full of geese, but their quacking gave him away. This is why goose is commonly eaten of Saint Martin’s Day. Saint Martin has become a model for leading a good Christian life throughout history. He was a soldier, who gave what he could to the poor, undertook military service, followed orders diligently and respected secular authority. He has become a paragon of justice, fairness and piety. Saint Martin died on November 8, 397, but was buried on November 11. This is why Saint Martin’s day is celebrated on November 11 today.  

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Saint Martin’s Day Significance: 

Saint Martin’s Day originated in France and has spread all over Europe. It not only celebrates the life of Saint Martin but also the end of the agrarian year and the end of harvest. The Advent season is derived from a 6th century Christian tradition, whereby worshippers would fast from Saint Martin’s Day until January 6, the day of the Feast of the Three Wise Men. Saint Martin’s day is often referred to as Martinmas, the day where Saint Martin is honoured with a Mass. As the Mass coincides with the end of harvest, traditionally fresh wine would have just been produced and farm animals slaughtered in accordance with winter preparations. This is why Saint Martin’s day is celebrated with feasts and bonfires. 

Saint Martin was known as friend of the children and patron of the poor. In the agricultural calendar formerly used widely in Europe, the day marked natural winter’s start, and in the economic calendar, the end of autumn. The feast coincides with the end of the Octave of All Saints and of harvest time. Much brewed beer and wine first becomes ready at this time, which sees the end of winter preparations, including the butchering of animals. Because of this, the feast is much like the American Thanksgiving: a celebration of the earth’s bounty to humans. Because it also comes before a penitential season, it became a minor carnival time for feasting, dancing and bonfires.  

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It is the the day on which Saint Martin of Tours is remembered and tribute is offered to him for all of his services to the humanity in spreading the message of peace, love and truthfulness as mandated by the God. It is a day of celebrations which gives an opportunity to all gather together and celebrate this day in honor and memory of this great personality and by also taking inspiration from his to adopt some good lessons from his life. Saint Martin had created a long legacy before his death and that legacy is still celebrated today in honour of this legendary soul. 

Saint Martin’s Day is also special as it commemorates the history and identity of the Saint Martin island as this island was named this way by Christopher Columbus in honor of Saint Martin of Tours. It is known as the world’s smallest island shared by two distinct nations, France and the Netherlands. The island’s two sides have unique qualities which makes them very different also as the Dutch south is very urban and modern, whereas the French north has many rugged landscapes and sights for which the tiny island is famous. Despite their differences, both sides celebrate Saint Martin’s Day with full joy and enthusiasm. 

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Saint Martin’s Day Celebrations: 

In some countries, Martinmas celebrations begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month (that is, at 11:11 am on 11 November). In others, the festivities commence on St. Martin’s Eve (the evening of 10 November). Bonfires are built and children carry lanterns in the streets after dark, singing songs for which they are rewarded with candy. Fasting used to be a permanent tradition in ancient times but it is rarely observed now. 

In many countries orocessions take place in the street on this day as part of the celebrations, They usually starts at church and then makes their way to a public square where a bonfire is lit. The procession is usually fronted by a man, dressed as Saint Martin on horseback, followed by children and parents carrying paper lanterns lit by candles.

Probably inspired by the story of Saint Martin hiding in a barn full of geese, roasted goose or Martinsgans is served in the evening, along with other traditional foods: red cabbage, dumplings and Martinshörnchen, a pastry that is supposed to represent the hooves of Saint Martin’s horse and his mantle. 

The Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated all over the world but the biggest celebrations of this day takes place in Germany. The nights before and on the eve itself, children walk in processions called Laternelaufen, carrying lanterns, which they made in school, and sing Martin songs. Usually, the walk starts at a church and goes to a public square. A man on horseback representing St. Martin accompanies the children. When they reach the square, Martin’s bonfire is lit and Martin’s pretzels are distributed. 

Most Searched FAQs on Saint Martin’s Day: 

1. When is Saint Martin’s Day celebrated? 

Saint Martin’s Day is annually celebrated on 11th November. 

2. Why is Saint Martin’s Day celebrated? 

The feast honors Saint Martin’s life and the end of the agricultural year and harvest. 

3. What do people eat on Saint Martin’s Day? 

Saint Martin’s Day foods are typically goose dishes, such as goose soup with goose roast with braised red cabbage and potato dumplings. 

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