The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America


{ The 11th of November }

  Martinmas was a day when cows, swine and other livestock were butchered and the meat prepared for curing in preparation for the winter. The getting together to butcher livestock on Martinmas would either be something done by extended families, or by friends and neighbors of a village.

  In early records the day was called Martlemass. Thomas Tusser, in his book Tusser Redivivus: Being Part of Mr. Thomas Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, published in 1710, noted that: Martlemas beef is beef dried in the chimney, as bacon, and is so called because it was usual to kill the beef for this provision about the feast of St, Martin, Nov. 11.

  During the butchering process, the entrails (i.e. intestines) of the animal would be thoroughly washed. Then they would be filled with "pudding meat", a mixture of blood, suet (i.e. fat), and bits and pieces of the meat that was not deemed suitable for drying and smoking. The ground-up bits and pieces, mixed with some of the animal's blood and suet, would be stuffed into the cleaned intestines, creating sausages and kielbasas.

  It naturally follows that when people are gathered together working at something such as a butchering, they would partake of liquor and the work would become more of a party. In his book, The Manners, Lawes, And Customes Of All Nations, by Johannes Böhm (variously, Joannes Aubanus Boemus), it was noted that: there was a great deal of eating and drinking at this season...very liberally of wine.

  In America, where there are numerous orchards, the "butchering day" of Martinmas would be combined with the boiling of applebutter. The fire that would be kindled to boil water in a large iron kettle for use in the butchering process, would serve double duty to heat a copper kettle in which apples would be boiled and stirred into applebutter. The kettles would be suspended over the fire by tripods constructed of green saplings.

  Martinmas, or the "Feast Of St. Martin", was named after a Roman soldier who was baptised late in his life, and thereafter became a monk. It was said that one cold and stormy night, he came upon a beggar who had no shelter from the cold. Martin tore his cloak in two and gave the beggar one of the halves with which to cover his cold body. Later it was found that the beggar with whom Martin had shared his cloak was actually Jesus.

  It was noticed that around the time of Martinmas, the weather would become slightly warm, and because of that, the week or so surrounding Martinmas was called St. Martin's Summer.

  The armistice that was signed between the Allied Nations and Germany to cease hostilities on the Western Front of World War I took place on 11 November, and so Martinmas is sometimes forgotten - the day being known as Armistice Day.