The big saints’ celebrations are, usually, held during summer. There is, however, a saint to celebrate as well, but in autumn. On the 11th of November to be precise. Days around that date are hot. And the period is called the summer of São Martinho. The saint, despite being celebrated relatively late in comparison to the others, does not mind being honoured with fried chestnuts instead of sardines.
The 11th of November, we celebrate the summer of São Martinho. Summer comes a few days to trick autumn, while people peel and eat the hot chestnuts, and drink water-foot or jeropiga, a drink with brandy and grape must, ideal to warm up the cold days.
Who was São Martinho?
São Martinho or São Martinho de Tours was born in the 316s in what is now Hungary. Son of a Roman legionnaire, Martinho was raised in Italy and early on followed a military career, travelling through the Western Roman Empire. Having been raised as pagan, São Martinho converted to christianism and was baptised in 356. After the event, his religious life led him to be responsible of founding old monasteries in France, and to be ordained bishop de Tours in 371. He died in Candes, on the 8th of November, and was buried in Tours on the 11th of November 397.
Legend has it that Martinho, the soldier, was riding his horse on a rainy day in winter. On his way, he came across a poor beggar and, feeling sorry for him, he ripped off half of his mantle and covered him partly, then went on his way. Later on, he came across another beggar in the same situation, and Martinho ripped off the other half to cover him, leaving himself without any cover. The story goes that Martinho, suffering from cold, in the rain and wind, was surprised by something unexpected: all of a sudden the black clouds disappeared and the sun came up, hot and bright. The good weather lasted three days, and since then, it always warms up three days during this time of year.
The São Martinho is celebrated in various countries. In Portugal, the Magusto is honoured with bonfires, fried chestnuts, water-foot or jeropiga, to cheer up the grayest of the autumn days. There is playing, getting dirty with ashes of the bonfires and singing. There is tasting of the new wine, for the first time. There are chestnuts and starters to choose from. It was the main food before the potato was introduced to Europe, especially in the countryside. On the all-saints-day, there were bonfires, people ate chestnuts, a the tradition which was later attributed to São Martinho. Take advantage and enjoy! Like folks say, ‘’Piquette, nuts and wine make for a great party at St. Martin!’’.
Translation by Ioana Bota