St. Martin’s Day (Martinje) in Croatia

Katarina Anđelković

Steve Tsentserensky

November 11, 2023 – St. Martin’s Day, also known as Martinje in Croatia, celebrates the patron saint of vineyards and winegrowers on November 11. It is one of the most eagerly awaited and joyous holidays in the region, due to the centuries-old tradition of holding the baptism ceremony of young wine on the day, which does not go without a good drop and a rich meal.

It is celebrated in honor of a Roman knight from the province of Savaria, in today’s Hungary, who was known as a gentle and merciful man, writes Večernji. He finished his military service, but was ordained and worked for years in a monastery in Gaul, in Poitiers, after which he was elected bishop of Tours. He was consecrated in 370. He was buried on November 11, 397, which is a day that is celebrated as his memorial day.

Legend has it that he was a great lover of wine and a winemaker himself, which prompted him to introduce the custom of must baptism. The legend also says that he was against becoming a bishop, so before the appointment he hid among the geese, but they told on him with their cawing. That’s how he became a bishop, and in honor of that, the traditional meal for St. Martin’s Day is goose with mlinci.

Image of a red wine glass served in a Vislander Winery tasting room
Photo credit: Vislander Winery wine tasting

‘Eating, drinking and being happy’ is the main motto of Martinje in most Croatian regions, and they are especially proud of it in the Municipality of Sveti Martin na Muri, which this year received a decision from the Government on the significance of celebrating St. Martin’s Day, or Martinje’, which actually categorized the celebration as intangible cultural heritage.

Many places in Croatia cultivate the folk custom of Martinje, where ‘ordinary’ people dress up as bishops and entertain the crowd with songs and jokes as bishops, baptizing must. In Sveti Martin na Muri there is a religious custom in which the parish priest, or another priest, even the bishop, blesses the new wine on Martinje. After that, the “People’s Bishop Martin” performs the ceremony of baptizing the must into wine.

By the way, Martinje is more often celebrated in continental Croatia, and the people of Zagorje approach it in a philosophical way, so the host, the table manager, the winemaker, the judge, the godfathers of the must and the bishop with his retinue must be present in the must baptism ceremony. If you need an excuse to go to a party, it should be said that wine contains many vitamins and minerals that are important for the body.


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