St. Martin’s Day (Martinje)

Priest blessing wine on Martinje (Saint Martin's Day)
Image by Kutina News

Martinje or blagdan svetog Martina (St. Martin’s Day) is celebrated on November 11. According to an old traditional custom, this is the day that mošt (grape must) turns into vino (wine). It is a Croatian holiday cherished since the 17th century.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Who was Sveti Martin (Saint Martin)

Martinje was named after sveti Martin (St. Martin of Tours) who was buried on November 11, 397. Sveti Martin was a Roman legionnaire and a great lover of wine. He is considered to be the protector of vineyards and winegrowers.

Sveti Martin is also the first saint who wasn’t a martyr, and yet he still has his own holiday. He was known for helping the poor and needy. Because of that, he is also considered to be the protector of the poor, beggars, soldiers, horsemen, and travelers. [Read: National holidays of Croatia]

Krštenje mošta (christening of grape must)

The custom of turning the grape must into young wine is called Krštenje mošta (the christening of grape must). Krštenje mošta happens during the night between September 10 to September 11. People usually gather together and wait for midnight when Sveti Martin comes to christen the must.

Two months later on November 11, Martinje marks the day when the produced wine is ready to drink.

According to the legend, Sveti Martin was the first to introduce the ceremony of blessing the must. The must was considered impure and sinful. Once it turns into wine, it becomes mature. This ceremony was banned in St. Martin’s time because it was considered to be a pagan ritual. [Read: Croatian wine cheat sheet]

Martinje and the blessing of the vines

Another custom is marked on November 11. In some Croatian cities, priests come to the vineyards to bless the young wine and vineyards. This is a religious custom that gathers people together. This custom is especially nurtured in Sveti Martin na Muri (view map), a village in Međimurje county that was named after Sveti Martin.

Other places participate in “narodni biškup Martin” (People’s Bishop Martin). People dress up as bishops, sing, have fun, and act out the ceremony of blessing the young wine.

Martinje is especially appreciated in the southern part of Croatia, Hrvatsko zagorje, Međimurje, Podravina, Baranja, and Slavonija. Some Croatian cities celebrate this holiday by organizing traditional folk and music gatherings. The biggest celebrations of Martinje in Croatia are organized in Sveti Martin na Muri, Požega, Velika Gorica, Kutjevo, and Sveti Ivan Zelina.

Martinje also marks the day when fieldwork comes to an end for the year.

Martinjska guska (Martin’s goose)

As part of the tradition, martinjska guska (Martin’s goose) and mlinci are served on this day. The goose is often filled with bread, liver, chestnuts, apples, or buckwheat. If you want to make it yourself, check out this recipe for Martin’s goose filled with apples.

So,  where did Martin’s goose come from?

Saint Martin was guided by the idea of love and he fought against heresy. Bishop Hilary of Poitiers ordained him as a priest and gave him his house in Ligugé, which Martin turned into a monastery. He wanted to spend his life in loneliness and pray.

When bishop Hilary died, there was no one who would take over the bishop’s place except for Martin. To avoid being named bishop, Martin hid in a bush. A nearby goose started honking, revealing his position.

Martin was found and became the next bishop out of duty, not out of desire. But that’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do.

Do you celebrate Martinje? How?

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Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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