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Monday, November 11, 2013

S. MARTINHO – Saint Martin's day

Well, today is St. Martin's day (amongst other things (like the beginning of the pagan Carnival and the date we celebrate the end of 1st WW).
I think it's not necessary for me to tell you who St. Martin was, you can google it, but what I am here to tell you is the importance of this day in Portuguese Society.
If you google “S. Martinho” or St. Martin you'll find many, although there are two of them that are of notice (having one of them been a Portuguese Bishop of the city of Braga). The one attached to the day's celebration's and what I'm going to blog about is the following:


The traditions surrounding this day, St. Martin's day, are called the “magusto” is an Iberian celebration of pagan origins. And of course, the Catholic Church dedicated this day to that Saint, turning the festivities more acceptable in the eyes of religion.
Well, I don't know about other places, but in Portugal the “magusto” is celebrated with roasted chestnuts, bonfires and young wine, amongst other particular traditions around this country and it's villages.
What I can tell you about these 1st ones is that the bonfires come from a time before time and have, so therefore, been around for longer than we can imagine. The young wine is logical enough: in September you take the grape crops and make wine, so the it hasn't matures yet.
About the chestnuts, I have researched them and have found information very well explained on another person's blog (unfortunately only in Portuguese).

 But what it says, and what I have said also on my medieval food blog, is that in the past humans have found ways to get their daily amounts of carbohydrates in many of the produce given by nature, instead of only wheat or general cereal. Amongst these are acorns and chestnuts. They would keep during winter and flower could be made off them, guaranteeing daily bread. And since November is the month of chestnuts in the Iberian Peninsula, it is logic that people have used it to celebrate this day.
If the “magusto” has pagan origins and if it has been associated with St. Martin by the Catholic Church, can it also be said that in a time before the Roman Empire, this day would have been a “holy- day”? That I cannot say, but that there are similar celebrations found in the Roman calendar, for sure; and that St. Martin day has been around since the Middle Ages, absolutely; ans that the French and British armies have encountered locals roasting chestnuts on the streets (and most likely celebrated this day), just have a look at the several women who have been inspiration to so many foreign painters then and since then.

 João Palhares



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