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Festivals of Western Europe

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Perseus
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2009, 01:31:41 pm »

MORTENSAFTEN (Saint Martin's Eve) November 10

    Saint Martin's Eve, coming at the season when crops are gathered and geese are fat, is celebrated in the homes with a family dinner. Harvest foods and roast goose, traditional to the occasion, are eaten in many homes.

    As one informant explained, "Legend says Saint Martin was hiding in a barn when a stupid goose gave his presence away by quacking. That's why the bird lost his neck and we eat him on Mortensaften!"

JULEAFTEN (Christmas Eve) December 24

    Christmas, the season of good will and rejoicing, is the greatest holiday in the Danish calendar. For weeks in advance farmers' wives turn their houses upside down in a frenzy of floor scrubbing, brass polishing, laying in huge supplies and baking dozens of traditional cakes, cookies and fancy breads. On "Little Christmas Eve," December 23, it is customary in many places to make enough apple fritters to last over the next three days.

    Farmers are busy, too, since they must tidy up everything outdoors as well as in the barns and stables. Horses, cows and sheep all receive extra food and care for, according to ancient folk belief, the manger animals stand at midnight in honor of Jesus' birth. A sheaf of grain, tied to a pole and erected in the garden, provides holiday fare for the wild birds. Even city apartment dwellers do not forget to tie bunches of grain to the balconies at this season.

    In couutry places the farmer traditionally makes the sign of the cross over ploughs and harrows and places them under cover. Should the "Shoemaker of Jerusalem" or, as some say, the Wandering Jew, find any unblessed or uncovered implements lying about, he would sit down and rest, thus bringing bad luck to the farmer.

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