Happy St. Martin’s Day or Martinmas! If you lived in medieval times, you might very well be getting ready for—or already in the midst of—a major celebration. It’s the Martinmas feast, where you would have celebrated the end of autumn and the ‘natural’ beginning of winter.
By November the autumn harvest and land preparation for winter crops was completed. Time to get ready for the challenging days of winter. Hogs that had been turned out into the woods in October to fatten on acorns were brought in and slaughtered, and the meat preserved. Cattle were butchered, as well, keeping only those few used to begin production in the spring. (Food was scarce enough; extra for animals wasn’t available.)
In fact, the term Martinmas (or martlemass) cattle was applied to cattle butchered at this time of year. There was even an “old English saying his “His Martinmas will come as it does to every hog,” meaning “he will get his comeuppance” or “everyone must die” (Wikipedia.com).
November was often called Bloodmonth. Sounds gruesome, doesn’t it. Actually, it refers to this period of slaughtering animals to be preserved for food during the long, cold months ahead.
The Old English name for November was ‘Blotmonth’ literally “blood-month,” “the time when the early Saxons prepared for winter by sacrificing animals, which they then butchered and stored for food” (etymology.com). The name November came from “ninth month” which was where November fell in the old Roman calendar.
This celebration of the end-of-harvest-beginning-of-winter honors St. Martin of Tours. A predominant image of St. Martin is of his cutting his cloak in half and sharing with a beggar he saw along the roadside.
He was a former Roman soldier who became a humble monk and so deplored the idea of become a bishop, tradition says he hid in a pen of geese. It didn’t save him. The honking geese alerted the churchmen to his whereabouts. He was brought forth and ordained Bishop of Tours. Thereafter, geese were identified with St. Martin. And goose traditionally was eaten during the Martinmas feasts. Unless you were poor, of course. Then you couldn’t afford it. If you were lucky, you got chicken. Or maybe pork. Or beef. Those two meats were handy, after all.
In the countryside, this time of bounty was celebrated with bonfires, dancing and, of course, drinking and eating. Martinmas was an important time in the medieval calendar. In Scotland, it was a quarter day. (England’s corresponding quarter day fell in September.)
St. Martin’s day, the first feast day in November, could be considered a ‘man’s day.’ But the second November feast/holiday was in honor of St. Catherine. It was considered a ‘ladies’ day.’ It gave rise to the term the Catherine Wheel. But that’s another story.
Thanks for stopping by the hear the story of St. Martin’s Day and Feast. It sounds a lot like Thanksgiving, doesn’t it? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
The Heart of the Phoenix
Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.
Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.
Can be cruel
Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.
When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.
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