Thanks again to frequent contributor Jessica Gordon of Shower of Roses for sharing her wonderful feast day ideas at TAN Homeschool
November 11th is not only Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day around the world, it is also Martinmas, the feast of St. Martin of Tours!
Born to pagan parents in the year 316 A.D., Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy and was a Roman soldier before discovering Christianity. He was baptized at the age of 18, became a “soldier of Christ” as a monk, and was later declared Bishop of Tours despite his reluctance to accept.
“The most common, and almost universal, harvest and thanksgiving celebration in medieval times was held on the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours (Martinmas) on November 11. It was a holiday in Germany, France, Holland, England, and in central Europe. People first went to Mass and observed the rest of the day with games, dances, parades, and a festive dinner, the main feature of the meal being the traditional roast goose (Martin’s goose). With the goose dinner they drank “Saint Martin’s wine,” which was the first lot of wine made from the grapes of the recent harvest. Martinmas was the festival commemorating filled barns and stocked larders, the actual Thanksgiving Day of the Middle Ages. Even today it is still kept in rural sections of Europe, and dinner on Martin’s Day would be unthinkable without the golden-brown, luscious Martin’s goose.”
– Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Francis X. Weiser, S.J.
Here are five ways to celebrate Martinmas at home with your family:
Read About the Life of St. Martin
If your children are anything like mine, they will love the comic style stories from Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact. You can download and print The Mantle of Charity: Saint Martin – Patron of Tailors (3 pages) from Comic Book +.
Additional book suggestions can be found over at Shower of Roses.
Donate Clothing to the Poor
“The best known legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying from the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clothed me.”
Inspired by the example of St. Martin, we too can “clothe the naked” (one of the seven corporal works of mercy) by going through our closets and sharing our warm winter clothing with the poor.
Make a Martinmas Lantern for a Lantern Walk
“But undoubtedly the main festivity on St Martin’s Day especially in France and Germany is that of making paper lanterns and carrying them in procession. Children form groups – either informally or as part of an official organization with a band – and walk through the streets with paper lanterns that they have either made or bought. Shops produce a large variety of lanterns depicting everything from spacemen to Mickey Mouse for the processions. Undoubtedly, it is as much a celebration of the arrival of winter, with its long dark evenings, as of St Martin. There are lantern songs and nonsense rhymes to accompany the processions.”
– Joanna Bogle, A Book of Feasts and Seasons
Our family loves making beautiful Stained Glass Martinmas Lanterns using glass jars, but you can also find some free printables for creating paper lanterns from the following blogs:
- Paper Lantern and Stained Glass Votive Cover at Our Domestic Church
- Paper Martinmas Lanterns at Wee Little Miracles
- Martinmas Lanterns (made with paper bags) at Waltzing Matilda
You can also create lanterns with balloons! Just blow them up first and set them in a bowl to stabilize while decorating. After the glue has dried, pop the balloon and cut out an opening in which to place the candle. Punch a hole on each side and gently thread the wire through to make a handle.
St. Martin’s Bags (Il-Borża ta’ San Martin)
Children are given a bag full of fruits and sweets associated with the feast, known by the Maltese as Il-Borża ta’ San Martin, “St. Martin’s bag”. This bag may include walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, dried or processed figs, seasonal fruit (like oranges, tangerines, apples and pomegranates) and “Saint Martin’s bread roll” (Ħobża ta’ San Martin).
St. Martin’s Bags are quick and simple to make with a bag of Fruit & Nuts from Costco, or just create your own combination of treats.
There is also a traditional rhyme associated with this custom:
Ġewż, Lewż, Qastan, Tin
Kemm inħobbu lil San Martin.
Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Figs
I very much love Saint Martin.
You can download and print tags with the rhyme included over at Shower of Roses.
Following your lantern walk, warm up by a bonfire, sing songs, and end the evening in prayer, remembering to pray for our veterans and soldiers.
St. Martin, you were first a soldier like your father. Converted to the Church, you became a soldier of Christ, a priest and then a Bishop of Tours. Lover of the poor, and model for pagans and Christians alike, protect our soldiers at all times. Make them strong, just, and charitable, always aiming at establishing peace on earth. Amen.
St. Martin of Tours, Ora Pro Nobis!
About Jessica Gordon