11 November 2011

11 November - Saint Martin; Veterans Day

The weather of St. Martin’s Eve (yesterday, November 10) is supposed to indicate the weather for the winter, and where the wind is, there it will be for the coming winter.

If All Saints Day brings out the winter, St. Martin’s Day will bring out summer.

Around St. Martin’s day, we can expect some warm weather.  This is called St. Martin’s Summer, better known in the New World as Indian Summer.
At St. Martin’s Day, winter is on his way.

If there is a frost before Martinmas, the winter will be mild.

If ducks do slide at Martintide, at Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Martintide, at Christmas they will slide.

If the geese stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas.

If Martinmas is fair, dry, and cold, the cold in winter will not last long. 

If the wind is in the south-west at Martinmas, it will remain there until after Christmas (Candlemas for the optimists), and we shall have a mild winter up to then and no snow to speak of.

Wind north-west at Martinmas, severe winter to come.

If the leaves of the trees and grape vines do not fall before Martin’s Day, a cold winter may be expected.
At Tours, in France, the birthday of blessed Martin, bishop and confessor, whose life was so renowned for miracles that he received the power to raise three persons from the dead. 

Today is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours (c316-c394), the Apostle of Gaul, the Roman soldier turned bishop.  Most people recognize him as the soldier who divided his cloak to cover a beggar shivering at the gate of Amiens, and received a vision of Our Lord wearing that same half, saying “Martin has clad me in this robe.”  The saint was once so popular and important that his feast had an octave.  His richly endowed shrine at Tours became so great a place of pilgrimage that it was known as a second Jerusalem. Martin’s cape or cappela, held as a relic and carried into battle, is said to be the origin of the word ‘chapel’ as the place where the relic was kept, and that the ‘chaplain’ was originally the person entrusted with its care. He is the patron of Tours, of beggars, and of tavern-keepers and vine-growers, the latter due to the festive traditions of this day.

It is the day of Martilmasse,
Cuppes of ale should freelie passe;

Today, traditionally, the wines of the season are first tasted (and of course, one taste is never enough, is it?), which make nice accompaniments to the traditional dinners of Roast Goose or Black Pudding.  Remember to ask Saint Martin to dine with you, by sharing your dinner with someone who has nothing to eat.  As a day of great feasting and revelry, Martin’s name became synonymous with noisy drunks, and the upset stomach that followed the exuberant dinners was known as “mal de Saint-Martin”.

In the German region of Swabia, this was a day to give presents to the schoolmaster in the form of a fat goose, with corn to feed it, and wine and a large cake for the preceptor’s enjoyment.  Keeping with this tradition, this would be a good opportunity for us to send cards of thanks to our children’s teachers (or to our own).  The goose is optional.

Sour old Naogeorgus, who couldn’t stand that papist custom of celebrating whenever possible, wrote these verses on the feasting on Martin’s day (you can almost see him roll his eyes, and thank God that he was a Protestant and didn’t have such awful enjoyment of life…):

To belly cheare yet once againe doth Martin more encline,
Whom all the people worshippeth with rosted geese and wine;
Both all the day long and the night now ech man open makes
His vessels all, and of the must oft times the last he takes,
Which holy Martyn afterwarde alloweth to be wine;
Therefore they him unto the skies extol with prayse devine,
And drinking deepe in tankards large, and bowles of compasse wide
Yea, by these fees the schoolemaisters have profite great beside;
For with his scholars every one about do singing go,
Not praysing Martyn much, but at the goose rejoyceing tho’,
Whereof they oftentimes have part, and money therewithall;
For which they celebrate this feast, with song and musicke all.

Saint Martin used to call on the children of Belgium to see if they had been good (a trial run for Saint Nicholas Day).  Those who had blotted their copybook were likely to find a whip tossed on the floor as a hint of their fate, while apples, nuts, and other treats were given to the good children.  At nightfall, all would join in lantern-lit processions through the streets, with bonfires and merry-making to round out the day’s festivities.

When the dailie sportes be done,
Round the market crosse they runne,
Prentis laddes, and gallant blades,
Dancing with their gamesome maids,
Till the Beadel, stout and sowre,
Shakes his bell, and calls the houre;
Then farewell ladde and farewell lasse
To the merry night of Martilmasse.

Young ladies would try the hemp-seed charm, by walking around a table at midnight, scattering the seed.  The future husband would hopefully appear behind the sower with a scythe in his hand in the action of mowing, and the young lady would need to escape before the scythe reached her, or there might be an accident.

The old phrase “All my eye and Betty Martin”, signifying ‘nonsense!’ or ‘baloney!’, is said to be a corruption of the Latin invocation, “Mihi beata Martine” (“grant to me, blessed Martin”).  Seems rather far-fetched to me, but who am I to argue with tradition?  

Catholic Culture has more celebrations of this popular saint's day, including a cookie called "Saint Martin's Horseshoes", an easy recipe, and one that will keep the children busy forming the 'horseshoes'. 

O blessed bishop who loved Christ the King with all thine inward parts and did not fear the sovereignty of the empire.
O Martin, sweetness, medicine, and physician.   
O holiest soul, which, if the sword of the persecutor had not taken away, nevertheless would not have lost the martyr’s palm.
Pray for us, most blessed Martin.
That we be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, Who perceiveth that we withstand from no virtue of ours, grant graciously that by the intercession of blessed Martin Thy confessor and bishop we may be fortified against all adversities.  Through Christ our Lord, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, O God, world without end.  Amen.
In the United States, this is also Veterans Day (in Canada, Remembrance Day) formerly Armistice Day, when the guns fell silent, marking the end of the World War, the War to End All Wars.  Please pause for two minutes at the eleventh hour - 11:00 am - to remember those who have served their countries - and vow to make sure that the guns really do fall silent.

For the souls of the veterans in my life: father, step-father, husband, uncles, cousins, friends, ancestors who survived to take up their bounty lands, ancestors who died leaving widows and orphans…
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls rest in peace.  Amen.