November 11 is Veterans Day–Armistice Day in England–the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month being when the First World War officially ended.

But November 11 is actually an older holiday, and rather an appropriate one, the feast day of St. Martin, patron saint of soldiers. The legend goes that he cut his soldier’s cloak to share with a dying beggar.

Martinmas was also traditionally the day on which hiring fairs were held, when servants sought new jobs, holding the symbol of their specialty–cooks held a wooden spoon, shepherds their crook, and female servants wore different colored aprons (e.g. for housemaid, nurserymaid). Hiring fairs were a great social occasion for servants, who, even if they were not looking for a new job, went to meet their friends and socialize, dance, and drink.

This was also the time of year when livestock was killed off for the winter and Advent, the run up for Christmas, officially began with a fresh meat feast. In Ireland, the feast began the previous night when the front door and four corners of the house were sprinkled with fresh blood from a slaughtered animal, and it’s still traditional on that night to have a roast pork dinner.

The date was seen as a turning point in the year–rents and contracts were often due at Martinmas–and the official start of winter, and the time to traditionally eat goose. And here’s a useful hint for your Martinmas goose feast–take a close look at the breastbone. If it’s a fair, clear bone, then winter will be cold and frosty. A dark bone indicates warmer temperatures with snow and sleet.

Of course we’ve had Christmas thrust down our throats for months already, but what are your plans for Christmas? It’s getting close… how ready are you?

Jane Lockwood is guest blogging over at Romance Sirens. Come and say hello!

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Judy T
Judy T
15 years ago

How interesting! I did not know about the eleven thing. And it seems to me that Martinmas wasn’t chosen randomly.

It’s only this past week that I’ve started to realize Christmas is approaching, when I was in Border’s and they were playing Josh Groban’s Christmas album. (I recognized it, as it had arrived from Amazon that week! LOL!)

I have been giving thought to Christmas gifts, and I’d like to explore some new traditions. (There aren’t many in my family.) Harlequin included Debbie Macomber’s Sugar Cookie recipe in their flier recently, and I thought I’d try it, to start. 🙂

Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Wow. It feels weird to be the Commenter on a Monday! I tell you, Janet came up with a great topic.

I’ve seen Christmas in the stores. I was at Costco yesterday and the Christmas music was blasting!

I was thinking…who in my extended family might agree to forego presents this year??? My mother-in-law suggested this and it seemed a great idea to me.

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

I really like the idea of attending a hiring fair, only I don’t know what implement of my trade I’d be holding…a book of Freud? A dictionary? Some heart-shaped chocolate?

I am so not ready for Christmas. I am barely ready for tomorrow.

15 years ago

Christmas! I didn’t even realize Thanksgiving is next week until this morning. Sad but true.

We’ve finalized Thanksgiving plans today. Teacher gifts are already figured out for the kiddies. Fudge all around!

Thanks for the insight on Martinmas. I’ve always found it fascinating to learn how traditions start.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Judy, I’ve been eyeing that Josh Groban album. Do you like it and recommend it?

Teacher gifts–thank you Santa. I’d clean forgotten about them until now!!!

Susan Wilbanks
15 years ago

Thanksgiving is just way too early this year! We’re going down to Oklahoma next week to spend the holiday with my husband’s family. Among other things, we’re going to go ahead and exchange Christmas presents with them, since Christmas is my family in Alabama this year. Which means we really need to order their gifts, like, NOW.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

St Martin of Tours is also the patron saint of pacifists — fascinating life really — a Roman soldier who converted and became a pacifist and when they called it the act of a coward he offered to go to the front line alone and without a weapon.

I think patron saint of soldiers and pacifists is a perfect juxtaposition.

Ready for Christmas — well, I have my shopping mostly done but have not thought much beyond that. Breaking every rule in the book and eating out for Thanksgiving — can’t wait.

Judy T
Judy T
15 years ago

Keira, it’s a truly lovely album. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. His voice is so incredibly rich and warm. He does lovely renditions of the songs he’s chosen. It’s definitely a keeper for me. 🙂

Elena Greene
15 years ago

There’s a great book out there called UNPLUG THE CHRISTMAS MACHINE. It’s about recreating Christmas the way we would like it as opposed to the commercial mad rush it often becomes. There’s an associated workshop we’re going to do at my church parents’ group this year.

Now if I can just unplug both the Christmas and Hannukah machines, I’ll be set… 🙂

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Judy, thanks much for the recommendation. I’ll be sure to snag it at Borders or Starbucks.

15 years ago

Thanks for the review of the Josh Groban album, Judy. I have been eyeballing that one myself. I work at Wal-Mart, as I believe I have mentioned,(and bemoaned)and the Christmas music started before Halloween! They sent me pallets of Thanksgiving pies weeks ago and my bakery freezer was stuffed to the gills. I love the holidays with my family, but it is the most stressful time of the year in a bakery, as you can imagine. I have not even started my Christmas shopping! My mother has finished hers AND has everything wrapped and ready to go. GRRRRR! I always give my nephews (16 and 12) and my niece (13) books for Christmas. Anyone have any suggestions? I do a themed tree every year and have several sets of ornaments that I rotate by theme – teddy bears, dogs and cats (yes, cats, Diane G)birds, German crystal ornaments and my favorite a Regency/Victorian theme. Can you tell I love Christmas? Every one of the pets has their own stocking so my mantel will be very crowded. Oh and the cooking? I leave that to my Mom – homemade divinity, Japanese fruit cake and lane cake. And for Christmas dinner, in addition to all the traditional stuff – Yorkshire pudding and Bisto gravy! MMMMMMM!

Georgie Lee
15 years ago

Great post. I enjoy learning about all the different season. I usually come across them while reading and then have to google. I haven’t thought much about Christmas. I still can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. This year my husband and I are going to London so all my thoughts are on the UK. I’ll turn my attention to the holiday whirlwind when we come back.

15 years ago

No actual plans here. . . just hoping that for my birthday I get the usual Carvel Ice Cream cake. . . look forward to that every year. 🙂 And okay, sure, it’s December and we’re eatting ice cream, but hey, it’s our birthdays!!!! (sis and mine, and we both get our own cakes) 🙂


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