11 November (Catholic Church)
The celebration of St. Martin of Tours, saint for both catholic and orthodox churches, falls on November 11, the period called "Summer of St. Martin", for the sunny weather usually associated with it.
This period is also related to important activities on the fields, such as the production of new wine, harvest, slaughter of animals (first of all of the pigs) and so the end of the working year for farmers. An old popular saying tells: "Goose, chestnuts and wine, keep everything for St. Martin's day."
The wine begins to be produced just in November by the transformation of the must and it is ready as new wine.
The slaughter of animals was done before winter for practical reasons, due to high costs of maintaining animals in stalls, but it retains elements of ancient pagan rituals, when the slaughter of animals was also aimed to propitiate gods for the upcoming winter. The slaughter of the pigs provided many different products made by expert swine butchers, wandering from farmer to farmer, who were also rewarded by taking part in the “pork dinner," a banquet of eating all parts of the animals that had to be consumed immediately. Depending on the availability, also the geese could be slaughtered, as a good reserve of fat meat.
In this period the yearly works on the fields were concluded. The seasonal workers received their payment, and if not confirmed by the owner for the following year, they had to leave the farms, looking for another job and accommodation. This habit was transmitted also to the urban environment, so that the saying "to do St. Martin" meant to move for new house.
The celebration has become gradually like a carnival, so in some villages of Italy young men in disguise entered houses to make court to girls, and the groups roamed the streets in the evening to draw hints on the facade of some houses, to indicate a betrayed husband.
Due to his popularity, St. Martin became the patron saint of France and of numerous locations throughout Europe.
Image: St Martin and the begglar, detail, anonymous, ca. 1480
source: Anonymous (Koller Auktionen) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons