Thursday, November 12, 2009

St Martin's feast

Next Sunday we shall be celebrating St. Martin's Day 'Jum San Martin' in Malta. The actual feast was last Wednesday, November 11th but it if it happens to fall on a weekday we usually celebrate it on the Sunday nearest to November 11. In the past the children used to hang an empty bag by their bedposts in anticipation for St Martin's arrival. In the morning, then the excited kids would find a bag full of goodies or a bag full of coal - depending on their behaviour.

Nowadays, at school children are usually given a bag called 'Il-Borża ta' San Martin', containing autumn fruits such as figs, oranges, tangerines, apples, pomegranates , nuts like walnuts, hazel-nuts, almonds, chestnuts and a sweet bread with an aniseed-tasting sweet on top (Il-Hobza ta' San Martin) associated with the feast. There is also a traditional rhyme associated with this custom:
'Ġewż, Lewż,

Qastan, Tin

Kemm inħobbu lil San Martin..

(Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Figs, Oh how I love Saint Martin!)

The feast of St Martin is celebrated in the village of Baħrija on the outskirts of Rabat at the the only chapel in Malta dedicated to this saint. It is the tradition that on that Sunday a fair is held to commemorate the feast. The Turkeys' Fair, in Maltese referred to as 'Il-Fiera tad-Dundjani' , originally took place in 1953 , when the rector of the time started the fair as a fundraising for the building of the new church to replace the small chapel that had become too small for the evergrowing congregation that attended. At this fair one can find plants, fresh vegetables, local honey, and other such local stuff and an exhibition of local animals.

At this time of year we usually have a temporary respite from Autumn and enjoy what we call in Maltese - Is-Sajf ta' San Martin - St Martin's summer. I always look forward to this feast because we get to enjoy a couple of warm days at this time of year. This feast is also associated with a substantial increase in hairfall too. Have you noticed how much more hair falls at this time of year? Men beware!


Doreen said...

Hi Zen I've enjoyed catching up with you postings, always so interesting. Well done on your being a winner on Blogging Women : )
Thanks for your being concerned when I was not posting, as I already replied to your question there, we had to deal with a health problem but thank God we are getting back to 'normal'.
Incidentally I never knew about the part where some would find bags of coal instead of all the goodies, I guess I must've always been good LOL! I too love the Sajf ta' San Martin...we used to have these days in Canada too and there this time is called Indian summer.
Ooops sorry for this being so long, trying to make up for being away so long : )

Dina said...

Hi, great post. I love San Martin week too for all it brings. My two eldest (9 and 5 years old) do put a bag next to their beds and they get the walnuts, etc and a small treat too. My cheeky daughter was leaving the bag every night this week, she told me San Martin might come again since she is ''very good''!!

Sue said...

Zen,it is really nice to find your post on the celebration of the feast in honour of ST. Martin. I was loooking for some information about the Borza ta' san Martin on Internet some days ago but with no result, I remember my mum and grandma would perpare these bags for us when we were just kids and I was wondering if the tradition was still on in Malta... your post answers my query, thank you!

Suki said...

@Doreen: so glad to see you back again. and am glad to hear you and your family are getting back to normal.

@Dina: So nice to hear you're keeping with our old tradition. Did you ever put a little bit of coal in their bags and see the kids' reaction?

@Sue: Am glad that u found my post useful. Neither at school nor at home was I ever given cloth bags full of goodies. And it's not because I was naughty. Coming to think of it..I used to attend a church school so it's quite strange that we never celebrated this feast. And at home mum used to buy us all kinds of nuts and fruit and put them in a large bowl on the table and we just helped ourselves after dinner.

Juniper said...

Ha ha your last line caught my eye- yes what is with the hair loss?? I though maybe it was something with the water here... glad it's just a seasonal thing that everyone suffers from!! Nice to have the warm weather!!

Suki said...

@ Juniper - yes thankfully for us women it's a seasonal thing; not so for the men

@Pilland -Thanks for taking a peak at my blog!