November 9, 2018
St. Martins Day or martinovanje is the Slovenian (and Croatian) harvest festival, mostly focused on wine, although a roasted bird shouldn't be missing from a festive table, preferably duck or goose, whose patron St. Martin is. One of the stories explaining this patronage points to St. Martin’s Day, November 11th, coinciding with the time of the geese migration, presumably, to avoid being eaten.
Concluding from its name, one might thing martinovanje was a Christian holiday. However, the purpose and decadent mode of its celebration reveals that it is actually one of those pagan festivals that the church tried but failed to incorporate into its own holiday cannon. Just like Mardi Gras, which celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of the farming season, maritnovanje is a harvest festival celebrated by drinking, eating and misbehaving, which includes poking fun at authorities, mainly the clergy.
The most popular Slovenian wine festival
The common wisdom of martinovanje is that on this day the saint turns must (grape juice) into wine. Now this does not just happen on its own. The must first needs to be cleared of all the sins which make it cloudy and only then can it turn into clear wine.
The “baptising of must” is usually performed by the owner of the cellar or any other local character who dresses up as a priest, bishop or even a cardinal and performs a ”ritual” that concludes with the communal young wine tasting. Below you can watch an opulent Catholic example, followed by a much more modest, probably Protestant version of the ceremony:
The day will be celebrated in towns, vineyards and homes all over Slovenia this weekend, with the main event in Ljubljana,happening in the centre of town on Saturday (the 10th), while there are also major celebrations in Maribor,- home of the world’s oldest vine, Nova Gorica, the Karst, Brda, and Koper.
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