Saturday, 12 November 2011

St. Martin’s Day

November 11th is St. Martin’s Day in Hungary a traditional feast day celebrated by tasting the new wine and eating geese. As cruel as it sounds this day falls right around the time when the geese  are ready to be slaughtered. It is also the time when traditionally the first candles are lit.There are also a lot of traditions to this day concerning weather forecast for the winter. St. Martin’s Day traditions date back hundreds of years and there are several tales surrounding its origins and the connection between St. Martin, the geese and wine.Since the 6th Century, the seven weeks of fasting leading up to Christmas ('Old Advent') started on St Martin's day, or Martini. It was the day when the financial and the farming year used to end. Cattle and fowl that wouldn't make it through the winter were slaughtered and salted for conservation. Like sharecropping, geese - which by this time of year were fully grown and plump enough - were either part of the rent paid to the lord, or were given by the lord to the tenants who attended on him. It was the day when farm labourers and handmaidens were dismissed and given a goose as a gift. New farm labourers and handmaidens were also hired on this day. The families prepared for the dark times of winter by the fireside.We thought that we will get into the festive mood with a day trip to the Skanzen in Szentendre. Having collected all highlights of traditional Hungary the Skanzen is an open air ethnographic museum with  nicely done houses presenting all the perks of village life.

Houses are grouped by regions in  Hungary and can be visited all year long. Interiors are changing according to season.

This time many of the houses had small displays of churches and the holy family, most of these are handcrafted by family members in preparation for Christmas.

 All houses are quite small but really homely. They remind me of  how the village life was when I was a little girl. I remember that my aunt used to have the same furniture and that huge bed which was made out of feathers.Yeah Hungarians are very big on feather duvets, coats and all the rest we just cannot get enough of it!!Most things are done with goose feathers I don1t think I have to say that November is the plucking season:O)).Only down barbs are used to make the stuffing for all things warm. It takes an enormous effort to make a pillow  a duvet not to mention the hardest part of the making is not to sneeze while tearing down from the quill.
My gran used to keep them quite often at her village house but not only for feathers and the meet but for many other benefits.The Martin's goose which was served goose with red cabbage and potato dumplings was said to have healing powers. Its fat (rubbed in) was thought to help against gout and its blood against fever. A feather from the left wing, burnt and mixed with wine, was believed to be a miracle cure for epilepsy. Even the wishbone of a goose had a meaning: if two people held one end each and broke it, the one with the larger end was thought to have their wish fulfilled. If the bone was pale and white, the winter was expected to be meagre and cold but if it was of a red colour, supplies were expected to last through the winter. I know these sound really unorthodox methods or even worse but these beliefs were big part of village life in the old times.I have to admit that although sometimes I find these methods frightening I still love to listen to them.

Martin's day celebration was organized to the highest standard. there were food and wine tasting, and crafts. You could also try feather cleaning, pillow making and painting, candle making, wreaths weaving, sock goose making and much more. We had such a good time with my niece who visited us that weekend. We made most of the crafts (which was free) and went home with a tonnes of stuff.

Our lunch was some fresh bread form the Skanzen bakery and cracklings made from sheep pig. Although i wouldn't prefer to have this all the time it was perfect for our so called picnic.

 The part I mostly enjoyed was the farm which is right in the middle of the museum. The animals were really cute. they also had guinea fowls which are my mothers 'favorite' they would be eligible for the title of the most annoying animals in the planet for sure as they sounds are highly annoying especially at 6AM  in the morning.They also had a Puli, horses sheep pigs, chickens, peacocks, cows and sheep.A delight for kids and adults.

There are several churches we visited in the museum this my favorite. Made entirely out of wood looking really warm and inviting make sure you do not miss it as it is quite walk from the entrance.

Doesn't matter what the season is Skanzen is one of the best places for a family visit there are a lot of things to do and make and see. For further details check the website.


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