Mārtiņi or Mārtiņdiena for ancient Latvians was the day to celebrate the end of active farming works and cattle pasture. According to the Solar Calendar the 10th of November marks the middle point between autumn solstice (Miķeļi) and winter solstice (Christmas).
There are different legends on how Mārtiņdiena got its name. One of the legends says that it was named after the Roman soldier Martinus, who lived before the church reformation in 16th century and who offered his cloak to a freezing beggar. After that Martinus found out that the beggar was Jesus himself. The same legend says that Martinus didn’t want to become a bishop and was hiding in the henhouse. But local people found him because of the noise from the birds. That is why Latvian traditions for Mārtiņdiena are not only about horses and clothes, but also about poultry and walks of Martiņi children.
Ancient Latvian believed that if on this day a rooster is slaughtered in the horse barn, horses will not get ill in winter. But the young girls had to leave their skirts in the middle of the room before going to bed – it was believed that a man they see in their dreams will be their husband. It was advised not to work on this day; at least, not in the field, since all of hard farming works should be finished until now. It may sound funny, but it was considered not a good idea to knit as well.
Mārtiņdiena is the celebration of the good harvest. It is the time, when there is plenty of everything. So, no wonder, that the dinner table was full of dishes for every taste. Chicken without a doubt is the king of the feast. Although many think that the main dish of Mārtiņdiena should be the goose roast, for Latvians it was always the rooster. On Mārtiņdiena the more is the better. Cakes, bread, pasties with meat, stewed root vegetables (carrots, turnips, red beet), peas, blood sausages, pancakes, karaša bread, potato dumplings, curd, honey, honey bear, various juices, deserts, pork dishes – you can choose what you like to put on the feast table. Mārtiņdiena is the day to celebrate food!
Ancient Latvians believed that on Mārtiņdiena you could predict what the weather will be like in winter.
If the weather is nice and sunny, winter will be freezing cold.
If it is foggy, the winter will be warm.
If it is freezing, the weather around Christmas will be warm.
If there is snow on the roofs, the winter will be long.
If geese walk on ice, at Christmas they will be swimming in water.
If geese walk in dirt, on Easter they will be walking on ice.
The traditions of Mārtiņdiena are known not only in Latvia. Many countries in Europe have similar traditions. For example, in Germany this day is known as Martinstag, in England –Martinmas, in Sweden – Mårtensafton, in Denmark –Mortensdag, in Finland –Martinpäivä, in Estonia –Mardipäev. Since the time of Middle Ages this holiday was closely connected with the cult of horses and traditions of the knights. In Austria, Germany and Holland children walk around with candles and lanterns, but goose roast is the traditional dish.
Ēst – est.lv wishes you festive celebrations and the tastiest dishes on your table!