Before Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, and/or Veteran’s Day took hold of 11/11, it was known as St. Martin’s Day, or Martinmas for short. It was one of the most popular and beloved saints’ days all across Europe. It served as the end of an extended All Saints’ celebration. It coincided with the final harvest of the year. Especially up North, like in England, it was a day to slaughter a cow, have some martinmas beef, cook up some blood or suet pudding and other treats, and set an extra place at the table
for St. Martin on his white horse for ambling merry-makers about the town, or for the poor. The festive tone of the whole thing is rather like how one might envision an old-timey Christmas. What a lovely thought, to realize that such a cheery festive spirit could be enjoyed on more than just one holiday a year!
Since Martinmas this year (tomorrow) is a Sunday, and since it’s also Remembrance/Veteran’s Day with a very special anniversary this year, perhaps today is the better day to make a little shout-out to the old feast of Martinmas. Grab some various hymns and songs to add to your daily prayers. Open a bottle of wine, or procure a fancy dessert to enjoy with family or friends, or grab some portable yummy healthy food and visit the local homeless folks or needy neighbors.
Maybe we all need to learn to “keep the spirit of Christmas” all the year round, and use old customs like this to remind us.