Today is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, otherwise called Martinmass.  I suspect few of you observed the old forty day fast period which would end today.  Also, today marks the octave since All Souls Day.  Don’t forget: Pray for the dead in a special way during the month of November and obtain indulgences if you can.

In some places through history Martinmass was a time of real celebration.  It marked the time when the new wine was ready and the harvest was in and also it stood not too long before Advent, a fasting time.

One of you kind readers once gave me book of the poems of John Clare (USA click HERE to buy, UK, HERE).  Here is “Martinmass” by John Clare written on 11 Nov 1841.

‘Tis Martinmass from rig to rig
Ploughed fields and meadow lands are blea
In hedge and field each restless twig
Is dancing on the naked tree
Flags in the dykes are bleached and brown
Docks by its sides are dry and dead
All but the ivy-boughs are brown
Upon each leaning dotterel’s head

Crimsoned with awes the awthorns bend
O’er meadow-dykes and rising floods
The wild geese seek the reedy fen
And dark the storm comes o’er the woods
The crowds of lapwings load the air
With buzes of a thousand wings
There flocks of starnels too repair
When morning o’er the valley springs.

Speaking of the naked tree, there is an old proverb that of the leaves of the tress and vines have not all fallen by Martinmass, it will be a hard and cold and long winter.

And remember Stir-Up Sunday is coming soon!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. MyBrokenFiat says:

    I did NOT know about this, but now the reason for 40 Hours this weekend makes a lot more sense!

    Thank you, Father!

  2. Joe in Canada says:

    I believe it was also a day in Europe to slaughter pigs that would not be kept over the winter.

  3. AnAmericanMother says:

    From a verse of an old ballad, “The Wife of Usher’s Well” —

    It fell about the Martinmas, the nights were lang and mirk,
    The sons came home to Usher’s Well, their hats were made o’ birk,
    That neither grew in forest green, nor yet in any sheugh,
    But on the hills of Paradise, that birk grew well eneugh.

    St. Martin de Tours is my daughter’s confirmation saint.

    His feast day is very great indeed in Germany. In Scotland, it marks one of the “terms” of the year, when tenants pay rent and various contracts begin.

  4. ContraMundum says:

    Here’s to hoping that the tradition about leaves on trees and vines applies to northern Europe, not to West Virginia! I’m dreading the hard winter that forecasters predict. At least in my native Florida, I didn’t worry too much about hard winters, no matter if the leaves were still on the vines.

  5. ContraMundum says:

    By the way, they have a wonderful tradition in Germany called the Martinszug. The one I saw in Mainz was a kind of a parade for children with paper lanterns led by a man dressed as a Roman soldier on horseback. At the end they were each given a little cake,which they were to share, as St. Martin had shared his cloak.

  6. Legisperitus says:

    Am I the only one making a point of not posting on the 11-11-11 11:11:11 topic because it currently has 11 responses?

  7. Elizabeth M says:

    That is an interesting proverb. None of our fruit trees have turned color, nor have their leaves begun to fall. This time last year I think our almond was almost bear. Guess I should invest in more frost blankets for the winter garden. Thank you Father for the reminder about “Stir Up Sunday”. I will be attempting my first fruitcake this year with an Italian twist. Not quite a panettone but similar.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    “É dia de São Martinho; comem-se castanhas, prova-se o vinho;
    It is Saint Martin’s Day, we’ll eat chestnuts, we’ll taste the wine.”

  9. mwa says:

    I was enchanted by Martinsfest I experienced just days after moving to Germany back in the 70’s, especially when seen in contrast to the American Halloween we had just left behind. Lovely that it still carries on, as witnessed on youtube (Here’s a good example I understand that the feast is celebrated in honor of Martin Luther by the Protestants, but I never saw anything other than that for Martin of Tours in Bonn/Bad Godesberg.

  10. Dr. Eric says:

    One used to eat goose for Martinmas, now in England, I hear, they eat turkey.

  11. Jael says:

    Our raspberry plants not only still have leaves here in the Pacific Northwest, but also many green berries and some ripe ones. Usually the crop is picked way before now and I’m pruning the canes. The maple tree is still totally green!

    St. Martin is the patron saint of the European city some of my ancestors came from. The town crest still shows him dividing his cloak with the beggar.

  12. kiwitrad says:

    I hope it doesn’t apply here in NZ. Our trees are only just coming into leaf!

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    The problem with old proverbs is that they’re often English in origin, and so don’t apply to America which has a quite different climate (especially the American South).
    I’d say about half our leaves have fallen here (which means I’ll have to rake several more times AND blow the gutters out at least once more) – but in mid-November that is almost always the case.
    And our winters, no matter how nasty they get in spots, are always rather intermittent. You’ll have rain and 40 degrees, then down to the 20s, then a snowstorm or ice storm will blow in, then two days later it’s 70 degrees outside. Last year we had a very atypical snowstorm — it stayed below freezing for almost a week after the snow fell, so the snow and ice stayed on the ground and kept downing trees and power lines for 5-6 days. Folks who didn’t have 4WD and a generator were in a quandary. We went sledding and I even broke out my old skis (and didn’t break a leg, or my neck!) My youngest dog had never seen snow before and was thrilled.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    It was 72 degrees here yesterday, but a cold north wind blew in with a horrible storm. More rain today. And, the European weather pundits are stating it will be the worst winter in 100 years.

  15. AnAmericanMother says:

    Worse than 1946-47? THAT is going to be horrendous.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Yes, I guess so…but only God knows for sure.

  17. Lioba says:

    Forty days — that would be the time between Michaelmas and Martinmass, right?

    If we had known, we *might* have fasted ;) …. Remind us next year, Father!

  18. I believe that the fasting period was not before Martinmas, but afterwards. From November 12th until Christmas; this period was later shortened in most of the West to the four week period of Advent (although the Ambrosian rite continues to have a 6-week Advent).

    St. Francis of Assisi refers to this custom in his rule for the Third Order.

    9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas, and throughout the greater fast from Carnival Sunday until Easter.

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