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Learn more about Martinmas

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Carnival

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Martinmas

Martinmas was the feast of St. Martin of Tours celebrated on November 11. It was immediately followed by the beginning of Advent, 40 days of reflection and penance in preparation for the great feast of Christmas.

The festivities were similar to those of Carnival, just before Lent, though on a smaller scale. There was much feasting, drinking and playing of games, as well as story telling and sometimes, plays. Cock fights, pig baiting and sport events such as racing, leaping or wrestling were other favourite activities.

Food was plentiful right after the harvest. Meat, from the autumn slaughter of those animals that it was not possible to house and feed over winter, could be salted or smoked to preserve it, but sausages and other foods made from offal would not last long. They had to be consumed fairly quickly before they spoiled. Since Advent required some fasting, the feast of St. Martin provided a perfect time to put the abundant meat products to good use.

November 11 also was the day that marked the end of old contracts. Hired help moved on to new positions and there were farewell and welcoming banquets for them.