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St. Martin's Day Celebrations


St. Martin's Croissants

St. Martin's Croissants - Rogale Swietomarcinski

© 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

St. Martin's Day Is Celebrated Throughout Europe

St. Martin's Day is celebrated on Nov. 11 throughout Europe. Named after St. Martin, the 4th-century Roman Catholic Bishop of Tours, France, this holiday spread from France to Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe.

It celebrates the end of the growing season and the beginning of harvesting. It also marks the last day to celebrate before the fasting of Advent begins. Children and adults walk down the streets with lanterns and torches, and sing St. Martin songs. The children visit neighborhood houses singing and reciting poems, which earns them sweet treats, not unlike Western Halloween.

Poles Have Two Reasons to Celebrate

Nov. 11 is Independence Day in Poland, but it is also St. Martin's Day and in Poznań, Poland, the Roman Catholic saint's name day seems to take precedence.

Every year on Nov. 11, thousands of Poznań residents attend a high Mass in St. Martin's Church followed by a parade through St. Martin Street led by "St. Martin" sitting astride a white horse. St. Martin rides up to the square in front of Zamek Cultural Centre and is handed the keys to the city by the mayor. Then the celebration begins in earnest.

Inside Zamek, there are exhibitions, concerts and performances, while outside, there’s a street market with knights reenacting medieval jousting tournaments. A splendid fireworks display ends the day.

Pozanians treat themselves to St. Martin's Croissants - rogale swietomarcinski also known simply as marcinski. These crescent-shaped pastries filled with poppyseeds and almond paste are consumed by the hundreds of thousands.

Legend has it this centuries-old tradition commemorates a Poznan baker's dream. His nighttime reveries had St. Martin entering the city on a white horse that lost its golden horseshoe. The very next morning, the baker whipped up horseshoe-shaped croissants filled with almonds, white poppyseeds and nuts, and gave them to the poor.

Another story cites the Rev. Jan Lewicki of St. Martin's parish appealing to his congregation in 1891 to make something for the poor for St. Martin's Day. Baker Jozef Melzer is said to have made croissants which were given to the poor or bought by the wealthy.

Some bakeries have started to produce these pastries year-round, but the "best ones" are considered to be those available only on Nov. 11.

Traditions in Slovenia and Croatia

In Slovenia and Croatia, St. Martin's Day marks the day when the must traditionally turns to wine. The must is usually considered impure and sinful until it is baptized and turned into wine.

St. Martin's Day Festivals -- -- Martinje-- include a "baptism" performed by someone who dresses up as a bishop, usually the host, and blesses the wine. It is definitely a time to eat, drink and be merry with a feast consisting of goose and mlinci -- a type of dumpling.

Czech Traditions

A Czech proverb -- St. Martin is coming on a white horse -- signifies the snow that begins to fall in November. Some Czechs hold a festival - posviceni - with roast goose as the main course.
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