Happy St. Martin’s Day!
On November 11th the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Martin, who was originally a Roman soldier before being baptised and becoming a monk.
The most famous legend about him is perhaps one that takes place before he was baptised and still a part of the Roman legion. It is said that one day he came upon a beggar in the middle of a snowstorm. Afraid the poor man would freeze from the cold, he cut his military cloak in half and gave it to him. That evening, Martin had a dream in which Jesus was wearing his half-cloak. Jesus then said to the surrounding angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me.” It is because of this legend that Italians call the period of abnormally hot weather in the beginning of November, “l’Estate di San Martino”, Saint Martin’s Summer (in order to keep St. Martin from freezing, God turns the weather warm near St. Martin’s day, November 11th). And it’s certainly been abnormally warm in Milan today!
A couple friends surprised me by telling me another St. Martin’s Day tradition when I went to their home today for lunch bearing a gift of a bottle of “novello”, a young Italian wine particular to this time of year, like France’s “beaujolais nouveau” that Americans traditionally drink at Thanksgiving. Little did I know, but St. Martin’s Day is the day you’re supposed to open a bottle of novello! There’s an old Italian saying, they told me, that says, “A San Martino ogni mosto diventa vino” – On St Martin’s Day, all grape juice turns into wine (I took a bit of liberty there… “mosto” means “must” but I had no clue what that was. Turns out “wine must” is simply freshly pressed grape juice, not yet fermented. But I thought my version was less confusing to those as uncultured as I am than saying, “On St. Martin’s Day, every must becomes wine.” I hope you agree)
So, Saluti! I’m raising my glass of novello to you as this posts