On November 11, the day of Sint Maarten, children go from door to door in the evening. Singing Saint Martin songs, and expecting some sweets or candy in return.
An old catholic tradition that never died out in this part of protestant Holland. Even growing again in popularity around here, in the Amsterdam region. Although for young children mainly (age 3 to 10). An exciting walk in the dark at that age.
In the past, Saint Martin's Day was much more important. Exceeding by far the festivities around New Year, and Sinterklaas. Because it coincides more logically with the seasons. The end of labour on the country. Produce of the land harvested, cattle in the stables. The winter begins.
Animals were slaughtered, to save feeding in winter. Plenty of autumn fruit. And limited conservation possibilities. So, there was feasting with all this abundance on November 11. Before the 40-day period of fasting towards Christmas began. Saint Martin was a Roman cavalry soldier in the 4th century AD. The legend says that when he met a half naked beggar, one cold winter day, the cut his army cloak in two and shared. Later he resigned from the army, and founded the first monastery in Western Europe, around Poitiers, France.
More on St. Martin's Day throughout Europe : click here. Below, part of a 1623 painting by Joost Cornelisz Droochsloot. The St. Martin legend in a 17th century Dutch setting. (click on the image for the complete painting) Return to history, general backgrounds on this website.