Martinmas Eve

Martinmas Eve is celebrated on November 10, the evening before St. Martin’s day.   It is called Mortensaften in Danish.

Saint Martin of Tours left the Roman Army at the age of eighteen after a few years of service.  He was then baptized and became a missionary and a monk.

According to the legend, Saint Martin made an attempt to avoid being elected as Bishop by hiding among a gaggle of geese but then the geese cackled and revealed his whereabouts.  As a consequence, maybe as a form of revenge for the betrayal, he declared that every year, the geese must lose their lives to be eaten.  This is one of the many legends about St. Martin.

The Danes celebrate Martinmas Eve with traditional dinners that include roast goose or duck.  In the past, they used goose mostly but nowadays, it is often replaced by roast duck.  It is interesting to note that one third of the ducks sold on an annual basis is sold during this time.  Eating duck is one of the most solid traditions in Denmark.  Another interesting fact is that Martinmas is no celebrated in church.

As a nice to know fact, Martinmas actually has two meanings.  One meaning is that in the agricultural calendar, it marks the beginning of winter, but it is seen as the end of autumn in the economic calendar.


Martinmas Even coincides with harvest-time, which is why it is like the American Thanksgiving.  This is an interesting time for most Danes.

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