While here in the Czech Republic, there have been many festivals that I have attended. Although the Czech Republic has become more secular, there are still quite a few traditions and feast days that the people celebrate, even though for the most part the religious context has been taken out.
A major festival that happened here last week was St. Martin’s Festival. It celebrates St. Martin of Tours, a Roman Catholic saint, who lived from 316-397. His feast day is widely celebrated in many European countries and is essentially the European equivalent of Thanksgiving. Over time, it slowly started to become more and more about the festivities behind the day instead of a religious holy day.
The Celebration of the feast of St. Martin occurs on November 11 which is what locals refer to as the “natural” start of winter. Legend has it that St. Martin escorts the season in as he arrives on a white horse (when the snow begins to fall).
One famous legend behind St. Martin was that while he was a soldier, he encountered a poor man at the gate of a city he was entering. He cut his military cloak in two to share with a beggar, and the other half of it to save from the cold. The following night he had a vision of Jesus, surrounded by Angels, and arrayed in the half of the cloak he had given the poor man. With this vision, Martin was baptized, left the army, and became a monk. In many celebrations, they reenact this legend when he arrives on his horse.
The main festivities behind St. Martin’s feast day includes feasting on goose and drinking young wine. The goose is usually enjoyed with cabbage and dumplings, similar to popular dishes found in the Czech Republic, and various wines are sold and drank throughout the day.
The fried goose became a strong symbol of St. Martin’s Day because of another legend behind him. When St. Martin was a priest, he was asked to become a bishop. He refused and hid in a goose pen, but he was betrayed by the geese which began cackling, tipping off his hiding place. This is a symbol of St. Martin’s Day now, and you can’t hear about St. Martin without mentioning geese!
Below is a gallery of photos from the festival:
Thank you so much for following me through my semester in the Czech Republic, it’s hard to believe that we leave tomorrow back to the States, but I have had an adventure of a lifetime learning about different cultures, experiences, and, of course, food!