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„Martinje” (St. Martin’s Day)

23 November 2009 No Comment

According to the Catholic calendar, St. Martin’s Day is celebrated on 11 November, and in Croatia, particularly in its northwest part, Martinje (St. Martin’s Day) is celebrated as a wine holiday, that is, a holiday for must [young wine]. It presents an opportunity to organize many festivities during which the winegrowers and their friends thank St. Martin for a good harvest and the young wine. But who is St. Martin and why is he connected to the custom of christening must? St. Martin, who has been shown as an ascetic in paintings for centuries, is the complete opposite to the cheerful folk celebration of young wine. The celebrations of St. Martin’s Day originate from pre-Christian times and they mark the period when the work done outdoors, in the fields, is finished and the preparations for winter begin. The end of all winegrowing activities is celebrated and the fact that must is fermented and becomes young wine on St. Martin’s Day is only a coincidence. It is also presumed that St. Martin’s Day is connected to this celebration since it is the last of the celebrations of saints, which are related to the works in the vineyards, in the year. Four saints are, namely, mentioned in connection with the works in the vineyards – St. George (in April) when the vineyards are earthed up, then St. John (in June) when the vines are in blossom, St. Michael (in September) when the grapes are picked and the must is prepared and, finally, St. Martin when the must is fermented and becomes young wine. According to history, St. Martin was born in Pannonia in the 4th century during the rule of Constantine the Great. As a child, he converted and became a Christian and ran away from home and went to a monastery. His father was a military tribune and it was at his request that Martin joined the imperial cavalry and remained in service in France. According to legend, on one cold winter’s day in Amiens Martin came across a beggar dressed in rags and chilled to the bones. He took off his coat, cut it in half and gave one half to the beggar. Jesus came to him in his dreams that night and said: “what you did for the poor man, you did for me”. Martin left the army after that and devoted his life to being a monk. He christened people all across Pannonia, Dalmatia, Italy and Galia in the 4th century and in 372 he became the bishop of Tours. He is the first officially proclaimed saint who didn’t die as a martyr. The cult of St. Martin spread from France to central Europe in the Middle Ages and arrived in Croatia where many churches were named after him. St. Martin’s Day will be celebrated in a particularly cheerful way and by working in the County of Zagreb where the following towns stand out due to their tradition and rich programs: Dugo Selo, with St. Martin as its patron, Samobor where a chestnut festival will take place at the same time, Sveti Ivan Zelina, Velika Gorica where the traditional gastronomic festival, the 8th Gastro Turopolje, will be held as well as the 10th Apple Days Exhibition and Jastrebarsko where St. Martin’s Day will be celebrated not only on the central town square with a rich program but also on most of the family farms along the Plešivica wine road. Must will be christened in Križevci and Kalnik in the County of Koprivnica-Križevci and on the Štrigova wine road in Međimurje. Young wine will be christened in many other towns in northwest Croatia, but the tradition is maintained in other regions as well and people in Istria will prove this with their celebrations in Tar, Vrsar, Momjna and Sv. Martin!


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