Every year on November 11th, we celebrate St. Martin’s Day, a Czech tradition filled with roasted goose and young St. Martin’s wine.
But do you know the story of St. Martin, who is said to bring the first snow? He is the patron saint of soldiers, horses, riders, geese, and winemakers, often depicted on horseback with a torn cloak and a beggar.
Born in 316 in Hungary, St. Martin was an involuntary soldier turned officer due to his military excellence. In a famous act of generosity, he shared his cloak with a beggar, leading to a divine dream and his subsequent baptism. He later renounced his military career to become a hermit and eventually ascended to the position of the bishop of Tours. St. Martin passed away on November 8, 397, with his feast celebrated on November 11th.
St. Martin’s Feast
St. Martin’s Day marks the peak of celebrations and festivities as the agricultural year comes to a close and people prepare for the strict Advent fasting, which lasts for six weeks. The star of the St. Martin’s feast is traditionally goose meat, featuring delightful dishes from delicious goose soup to the renowned goose liver with almonds, not to mention golden-brown roasted goose. In addition to goose, St. Martin’s bread, such as rolls, horns, or horseshoes, is customary for this day. Young ladies would present their beloveds with St. Martin’s rolls. A large roll filled with poppy seeds was given as a farewell gift from departing servants or maids. In wine regions, people savor the year’s new wine. Our ancestors followed several other customs on November 11th, like the originally German tradition of crafting lanterns and paper lamps. These lantern processions sought to bring the message of goodness and light into the upcoming winter. Also, the famous Czech pranostiky (weather folklore) are often shared on St. Martin’s Day.
St. Martin’s Wine
Wine and St. Martin’s Day are inseparable: In the Czech Republic, an old saying goes, “St. Martin’s joys are geese and a jug of wine.” In the German border region of Šumava, it was believed that anyone who drank St. Martin’s wine would become strong and beautiful. The tradition of St. Martin’s wines was renewed in the Czech Republic by the Winemaker’s Fund in 2004. These wines are the first of the year’s vintage, and their tasting is meant to occur at 11 o’clock on November 11th. For wine to bear the label “Svatomartinské” (St. Martin’s), it must meet fairly strict criteria, and its entry into the market is reviewed by an expert committee. It should be drunk by Easter to maintain its youthful and fresh taste.
In the Czech Republic, St. Martin’s Day, celebrated on November 11th, is often associated with the tasting of new wines, particularly young and partially fermented wines. While specific grape varieties can vary, the most popular wine varieties enjoyed on St. Martin’s Day in Czechia include:
- Svatovavřinecké (St. Laurent): This is one of the most traditional wine varieties consumed on St. Martin’s Day in Czechia. Svatovavřinecké, also known as St. Laurent, is a red wine with a fruity and velvety character.
- Frankovka (Blaufränkisch): Another common red wine variety enjoyed on this day is Frankovka. It has a pleasant mix of fruitiness and spiciness.
- Rulandské šedé (Pinot Gris): For those who prefer white wine, Rulandské šedé, also known as Pinot Gris, is a popular choice. It’s a medium to full-bodied white wine with a range of flavors from fruity to floral.
- Muškát moravský (Moravian Muscat): Moravian Muscat is a white wine with a distinctive floral and musky aroma, making it a fragrant choice for the celebrations.
- Tramín červený (Gewurztraminer): Tramín červený is a red wine variety with aromatic and spicy notes that add an interesting dimension to St. Martin’s Day celebrations.
We celebrate st. Martin’s date at Bohemia House in the following days: from Tuesday 7. 11. until Sunday 12. 11. with a special menu