We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

San Martino Day- November 11

On November 11,  it was San Martino Day here in Venice.  I love this holiday- it's kind of a cross between Halloween and Christmas, because the kids dress up in costume and they get presents. Well, just one kind of present, a cookie in the shape of a horse. Like this one:

This one is huge, about 20 inches tall, however they also come in all sizes with incredible varieties of decorations.  Another incredible thing about them is the price. A large one, like this, is around 45-55 Euros each. Smaller ones, about 12 inches tall are in  the 12-20 Euro range. Incredible! But what a great tradition!! About a week before San Martino day, all the bakeries have piles of horse cookies in the front windows, one more beautiful than the next.

On San Martino day, the children dress up with a cape- usually red - and a crown (like little super heros and heroines), grab their mom's pots and pans, lids and wooden spoons, and get out in the streets of Venice in small groups to parade around singing a traditional San Martino song.  They stop at all the shops where the shopkeepers give them candy.  See- like Halloween for us in the USA!

I googled Saint Martin, so I could give you an official version of what his claim to fame is. According to Wikipedia:

In the 4th century, Saint Martin met a starving, freezing beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens. He cut his cloak in two with his sword and gave half to the man. For that reason, Martin is a saint associated with the poor. It is also said that at the moment he tore his cloak, the sun came out and that is why an Indian summer here is known as an estate di san Martino.The 11th November is the festa of this favourite saint and traditionally the day when the novello [new] wine is opened.

This year, Mike and I introduced this Venetian tradition to our friends Jim and Cissie who have been visiting from Columbia, Maryland.  It was Cissie's birthday this week, so we took the opportunity to celebrate with one of these giant horse cookies instead of a cake.   We all sat around the dining room table pulling off hooves, ears, tail and assorted body parts until every last yummy bite was devoured. 


Dianne said...

So what do the cookies taste like? Are they almond based as many Italian cookies are.

When I lived in Luxembourg, there was a tradition there that was similar to Halloween. Can't remember too much of it but I do remember that the kids would come around collecting money. There were usually given small change by the locals.

All these traditions that we discover in our temporary (or in your case permanent) new countries are such fun. It is part of the charm of living overseas!

Andrew said...

I have a soft spot for S. Martino since, as a child, I had to dress up as him on All Saints'Day in church and tell the congregation his story.

karen said...

Andrew, I bet you made one grande San Martino!!! You should plan to be here next year on Nov 11. I'll look forward to seeing you in Campo Santa Margherita with your red cape!!

Michelle said...

I've never heard about this! How great! Thank you so much for sharing!

Michelle said...

I've never heard about this! How great! Thank you so much for sharing!

karen said...

Grazie, Michelle!!!! It's one of my favorite days of the year.