On the 11th of November, the day of Saint Martin is celebrated throughout the Veneto, an event that is as old as it is evocative, which has given rise to many popular traditions, idioms and poems. However, we must point out that some are disappeared and others resist in the time. All are closely linked to the time of the year when the Saint is celebrated, namely autumn.
The festival, located at the end of the agricultural year and at the beginning of the winter season, gave rise to many traditions related to agricultural activity and the rural world. In those days the fruit harvest is completed and in the barrels the must is ready for racking.
” A San Martin el mosto se fa vin ” is another proverb linked to this: in the cellars it is the period of making wine and the promotional events multiply with the aim of respecting local traditions and enhancing the typical products of the territory. This is why this period of the year promoted and promotes many occasions for meetings between people, parties and abundant libations today reinterpreted with numerous country festivals, festivals and events.
It was the days of some very important deadlines, including the end of the working year for the peasants, and therefore the agrarian contracts and the rent of rural land, pastures, and woods were renewed.
Therefore the choice of the owner to renew the rent or change tenant, marked the destinies of many families, considered the frequent number of their members and of entire communities. So if they were renewed, the sharecroppers could stay and work in that plot for another year, otherwise they had to move and look for another master and another lodging, moving with the consequences imaginable. Therefore “fare San Martino” has become a way to mean moving out.
Another venetian proverb: ” San Martin viene ‘na volta a l’ano, s’el vegnesse ogni mese el saria a’ rovina del paese.“, meaning ironically “San Martin celebration is once a year but if it would happen once per month, it will be the ruin of the town”. This proverb desecrate the tradition of celebrating Saint Martin days as rite de passage between the good season and winter time, which also includes the termination of the old wine because the new one is ready to be consumed, together with rich libation.
But in Italy and in Veneto the cult of the Saint is also linked to the so called “summer of Saint Martin”, a particular weather condition happening at the beginning of November. It is the name used to describe the autumn period in which weather conditions of good weather and relative warmth are thought to occur, often during Saint Martin week.
This recurring event is linked to Saint Martin legend which report that when he gave his cloak to the poor man, the bad wheater suddenly became good. So in Veneto this weather condition during Saint Martin week is called the “L’estate di San Martino – The summer of San Martino” and the proverb ” L’istà de San Martin dura tre dì e un pochettin – Saint Martin summer last 3 days and a bit“.
Finally we found this further tradition linked to November 11, even if now almost completely disappeared: until the 70’s, but still in some towns like Vittorio Veneto (see the Talking Map), kids were going around the neighborhoods and squares to make noise with the beating of lids, pots and bells to attract people’s attention to have a little trick or some money. This tradition had given rise to many nursery rhymes still known by older-generations.
Today this tradition today is almost everywhere replaced with the Halloween party.