Feast of Saint Martin Celebrated in Korčula Again this November

Total Croatia News

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The feast of Saint Martin of Tours, patron saint of beggars, wool-weavers and tailors, geese, vintners and innkeepers, and France. It is celebrated throughout Central Europe on November 11th, which is said to have been the day of the saint’s funeral. 

The celebrations of the feast of Saint Martin are especially rooted in the tradition of the Northern part of Croatia, where in Međimurje and Slavonija on this day the conversion of the must into wine is celebrated – by drinking, of course, a lot of wine. In Croatian language, the festivities are called Martinje. Nowhere else in Dalmatia is it given any similar significance as it is in Northern parts of Croatia – except on Korčula. 

While other places celebrate on the day itself, November 11th, on Korčula the celebration starts on St. Martin’s Eve, in the evening of November 10th. That is when the children of Korčula will gather in groups and go singing around the town carrying the lanterns (called “feral” in Dalmatia) – not unlike the tradition of Christmas caroling around the world. There’s even a special song, the so-called Martin’s Song (celebrating, among other things, wine), sung by the children on the day, and for their efforts they are awarded by the townspeople with whatever they have for the little singers: fruit, cakes or even sometimes small amounts of cash.

On Saint Martin’s eve for past several years, an event bringing together a capella singing groups from the island (so-called “klape”) will also be held in Korčula. 

The cake that was traditionally made and eaten for the feast of Saint Martin is korčulanska lojenica, a traditional cake that has recently been saved from oblivion by Smiljana Matijaca of Cukarin fame, who brought it back to the tables of Korčula for the feast, and who has received the label of Croatian Island Product for the cake.

While it is somewhat similar to the other traditional cake made on the island (blatska lumblija), there are significant differences – lojenica contains suet (a form of mutton fat, used in recipes around the world, including the traditional Christmas pudding recipe in England), while blajska lumblija contains varenik, a sweet and thick sauce that one gets by boiling wine must. Lojenica also usually contains a more modest amount of aromas and spices, although the ones used are almost the same. 

Once the kids have gone around the town, sang their songs and gotten their presents, it’s time for the adults to celebrate wine a bit more, so it goes without saying that most men of Korčula will be walking around with a headache on Saint Martin’s day. And that will not make another one of the traditions for Saint Martin’s day more pleasant: having lunch or dinner in larger groups on the day itself, and that meal often includes mutton (which we needed anyway to make lojenica). Most people of Korčula will have dinner in larger groups on the day, even if they don’t live on the island anymore, if they have made wine that year, it will be tasted by their friends, lojenica will be had and the party will continue… 


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