Martinmas: a day for food, wine, and community

St Martin

It’s Martinmas—the Feast of St Martin of Tours, patron saint of beggars, outcasts, wine-growers, and innkeepers.

In the Middle Ages, Martinmas marked the beginning of winter, when farmers would gather nuts (pannage) for their pigs, coppice trees, finish sowing winter wheat, and slaughter and salt their Martinmas hog for winter consumption—’At Martynesmasse I kylle my swyne’, as a fifteenth-century poem has it. Falling as it does around the grape harvest, Martinmas also became a holiday to give thanks for the season’s new wine and beer.

This food-based saint’s day is the perfect time to launch Dinner at the Vicarage—a blog based around food, wine, and community.

The current pandemic has re-introduced a long-lost concept: that of St Martin’s Lent.

[St. Martin’s Lent] was formerly observed, even by the Laity, with Abstinence from Flesh, and with a rigorous Fast, in some Places, by Precept, in others of Devotion, and without any positive Obligation, though universal. The first Council of Maçon, in 581, ordered Advent from St. Martin’s to Christmas-day three Fasting Days a Week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; but the whole Term of forty Days, was observed with a strict Abstinence from Flesh Meat.

Rev. Dr. Alban Butler, The Moveable Feasts, Fasts, and Other Annual Observances of the Catholic Church

We’re not asking you to fast—far from it! Rather, we’d love you to come together with us once a week to enjoy the pleasures of the table and community in this season.

Here’s how it works: Each week, a different Church of England bishop will provide a recipe for us to cook. Will Lyons of the Sunday Times will suggest the wine pairings. On Monday evenings we’ll gather together virtually via Zoom to share wine, food, and conversation.

Sign up below to receive the weekly Zoom link. We’re looking forward to seeing you at dinner!

Come eat with us!
Each week we'll send you the Zoom link so you can join our dinner party from your own home.

Charlotte Gauthier is a historian whose work focuses on late-medieval conceptions of Christendom and the effect of the crusades on the church, state, and society in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England.
    • Tim Henderson
    • November 11, 2020

    Was Martinmas the “private holy day” for brewers ?

    The Edwardine Injunction implies they had had a feast day but I haven’t come across a particular feast day associated with them .

    “And on the other side, that whosoever doth superstitiously abuse them, doth the same to the great peril and danger of his soul’s health: as in casting holy water upon his bed, upon images, and other dead things, or bearing about him holy bread, or St. John’s Gospel, or making of crosses of wood upon Palm Sunday, in time of reading of the Passion, or keeping of private holy days, as bakers, brewers, smiths, shoemakers, and such other do; or ringing of holy bells; or blessing with the holy candle, to the intent thereby to be discharged of the burden of sin, or to drive away devils, or to put away dreams and phantasies, or in putting trust and confidence of health and salvation in the same ceremonies, when they be only ordained, instituted, and made, to put us in remembrance of the benefits which we have received by Christ. And if he use them for any other purpose, he grievously offendeth God.'”

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