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Croatian Martinje: A Grape Harvest Festival

Martinje, the celebration of St. Martin on November 11th, is observed differently in various parts of Croatia. In Croatian Zagorje, it’s called Martinje. In Istria and the Croatian coast, it takes on the feminine form, Martinja. In the north-western region, especially in Hrvatsko Zagorje, Martinje features a fun tradition known as the “baptism of must.” The day is marked by a festive gathering, highlighted by a delicious meal featuring roast goose, known as Martinjska goose. 

Croatian Martinje: A Grape Harvest Festival

In Croatia, Martinje is a special day celebrated as Young Wine Day. It marks the moment when the first taste of young wine becomes available. This tradition is deeply rooted in the country’s winemaking culture. People come together to open the initial barrels of young wine, often referred to as “fresh wine” or “young wine.” It’s a time for winegrowers to celebrate their hard work and express hope for a successful wine-growing season. 

During Martinje, people do a special ceremony to bless the young wine, and they like to wear fancy costumes. There are different events and things happening to celebrate Martinje and the long tradition of making wine. According to a story, Martin, the guy the day is named after, really loved wine and even made it himself. His passion led to a cool tradition of baptizing must, making Martinje extra special. 

In the Zagorje region, a common saying during the Martinje ceremony goes, “When Martin arrives at midnight, the young wine will be as clear as a cloudless sky.” This moment is often accompanied by a playful ritual of baptizing the “mošteka” and giving him the name Vinček. Martinje, therefore, goes beyond being a simple wine-tasting day. It gathers blessings, traditions, and legends that enhance the experience of enjoying the fruits of the vineyards. Cheers to Martinje! 

In Sveti Martin na Muri, they celebrate Martinje a bit differently

On November 11th, they have a special ceremony to bless the young wine. They don’t forget to enjoy some good wine and tasty food! The Feast of St. Martin is a big deal in this part of Croatia, especially in Zagorje. Motto for Martinje is simple: eat, drink, and be happy. But here in Sveti Martin na Mura, they’ve got something extra special. The government recognized the celebration as a really important cultural thing. 

Croatian Martinje: A Grape Harvest Festival

Now, in other places, folks might dress up like bishops for the Martin tradition. But here, they do something more religious. The pastor or another holy person, maybe even a bishop, blesses the new wine during Martinje. Then comes the “People’s Bishop Martin,” who turns must into wine in a cool ceremony. St. Martin’s Day is all about honoring a Roman knight from Hungary, a kind and generous guy. After his military days, he worked in a monastery, became a bishop, and was buried on November 11th, which is now his special day.  

Legend has it he loved wine and was a winemaker. He even tried hiding among geese to avoid becoming a bishop. Of course, they gave him away with their noise. That’s how he ended up as a bishop. In many places, people still celebrate with goose and mince pies in his honor. 

St. Martin

St. Martin got his name from the Roman god of war, Mars. Basically, his name is a short version of that divine name. Martin’s parents saw Christianity as a sect, but he found it appealing and eventually embraced it. In 370, he made himself an exorcist and later became a bishop. He even earned the reputation as the greatest French bishop.

Many people admired him for speaking out against the rich and helping the poor. As a result, he became the patron of various groups, including:

  • winemakers, 
  • soldiers, 
  • horsemen, 
  • innkeepers, 
  • cured alcoholics, 
  • hoteliers, 
  • geese, 
  • horse breeders, 
  • the Swiss papal guard, 
  • and all of France.

 

In Croatia, he’s also the patron saint of places like Beli Manastir, Virje, and Čepinski Martinac. 

In common belief, Martinje signals the end of autumn and the start of winter because all the field work is done. Back in the Middle Ages, November 11 was a fair day across Europe. People would finalize contracts, settle debts, pay taxes, and similar things during this time. 

Festival

Come and Enjoy!

As you explore Martinje celebrations in Croatia, you’ll find lots of different traditions that make the day special. Whether you’re in Croatian Zagorje with the “baptism of must” or along the coast for Martinje, it’s all about celebrating St. Martin and enjoying Young Wine Day. 

If you’re visiting, you’re welcome to join the fun! Taste the first sip of young wine. Take part in ceremonies blessing the barrels. Watch the playful baptisms of “mošteka”. Soak oak in the cultural richness of this special day. Don’t miss out—be part of the celebration and experience the magic of Martinje for yourself! 

Your CTC Team

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