St. Martin's Feast uncorked: Goose, wine, and festivities in Czechia for 2023

All you need to know about this delicious autumn event which celebrates the patron saint of wine and geese. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 02.11.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 03.11.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

Across Europe, the feast of St. Martin, known elsewhere as Martinmas, brings a hearty winter pairing of roasted goose and, in the Czech Republic, St. Martin’s wine (Svatomartinské víno). The medieval custom falls in November because that’s when geese were fattened across the continent and coincides with the last grape harvest of the year, meaning St. Martin is also the patron saint of vintners. 

Here's all you need to be about how, when, and where to tuck into this decadent Czech feast and observe other St. Martin's traditions on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023.

The saint

St. Martin's legend is rooted in fourth-century Roman soldier Martin's conversion to Christianity after he shared his cloak with a beggar and saw it miraculously restored by Jesus. His feast day of Nov. 11 aligns with the start of wintry weather in Central Europe, and weather sayings like "Martin is coming on a white horse" associate this day with the arrival of snow.

Saint Martin sharing his cloak by Anthony van Dyck. Public domain
Saint Martin sharing his cloak by Anthony van Dyck. Public domain

The legend

St. Martin was said to have been lured to Tours, a city in what is now France, in 371 A.D., believing he was needed to help an ailing townsperson. However, the locals intended to corner him at the church and compel him to become their bishop. When Martin uncovered the true purpose of the visit, he took refuge in a barn to avoid the ceremony. Unfortunately, cackling geese exposed his hiding place, leading to his unexpected ordination as a bishop.

The wine

Because his feast day coincides with the last grape harvest of the year, St. Martin is also the patron saint of vintners. Tradition holds that on the day of St. Martin's feast, new wine from the recent harvest is to be consumed alongside a meal of roasted goose. St. Martin's festivities begin with the uncorking of fresh wine at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 in cellars across the country.

Wine glasses with the registered Svatomartinské logo. (Photo: Vinařský fond)
Wine glasses with the registered Svatomartinské logo. (Photo: Vinařský fond)

The arrival of St. Martin’s Day Wine (Svatomartinské vino) in Czechia is similar to that of Beaujolais nouveau, the first of the French wines, which cannot be sold until the third Thursday of November. Light, fresh, and aromatic, Svatomartinské wines are meant to be consumed within a few months.

The Wine Fund (Vinařské fond), owner of the Svatomartinské brand, has made changes to the rules for selling young wines in preparation for St. Martin's Day. Customers can pre-order St. Martin's wine online from Nov. 9, with deliveries starting on Nov. 10. This allows for earlier enjoyment of the wines. Physical stores and restaurants can continue selling until St. Martin's Day on Nov. 11.

The largest St. Martin's wine festival in Prague takes place at the oldest Czech vineyard near Villa Richter. Over 50 wineries will showcase their wines on Nov. 11 from 11 a.m., among them St. Martin's and young wines. Simultaneously, the Feast of St. Martin's Wine at Vinotéka sv. Kláry in Troja will feature four young wines to enjoy before noon, starting at 11 a.m. See all wine festivities here.

The feast

This hearty autumn feast includes dishes like liver pâté, rich broth with liver dumplings and noodles, and the centerpiece roast goose with cabbage and dumplings. Many breweries also craft beer for the St. Martin's season.

Restaurants around the country will be serving goose specials on or leading up to Nov. 11. Many say they are preparing St. Martin's menus that are approximately CZK 100 more expensive than last year due to the increased costs. But while prices are up, interest has not gone down: reservations for St. Martin's feasts in restaurants are filling up, so it's best to book early.

A roast goose meal. Photo via Pixabay/ivabalk.
A roast goose meal. Photo via Pixabay/ivabalk.

In Prague, Červený Jelen puts on a decadent feast from Nov. 10-12 while supplies last as does Kuchyň at Prague Castle. This year, a newly opened restaurant devoted exclusively to Bohemian Goose seems like a natural choice. Outside of Prague, the Royal Beroun Golf Club is hosting a St. Martin's Day dinner on Nov. 11-12.

On Nov. 4, the Pork and Goose Feast at Smíchovská Náplavka offers roasted goose legs, soup, pâté, and burgers. Nov. 11 brings the Jiřího z Poděbrad market featuring goose and wine delights; on the same day, the Náplavka Farmers' Market serves St. Martin's wines, goose roast, and more. Karlín Market on Nov. 12 combines St. Martin's wine with live music. The Museum of Agriculture at Letná hosts a goose roast and wine banquet on Nov. 11, featuring tastings, food, dulcimer music, workshops, and traditional St. Martin's Day cuisine. See all St. Martin events here.

The festivities

On Nov. 11 at precisely 11:11 a.m., the St. Martin's procession will commence on Charles Bridge, during which St. Martin will make his way across the bridge while riding a white horse. A medieval theater troupe will perform several plays devoted to the legend of this historical figure, who was the first non-martyred saint. Additionally, a medieval market will take place at Křížovnické Square, and Charles Bridge Museum will offer free tours.

Lantern parades (Svatomartinský lampionový průvod) associated with St. Martin's Day also take place at this time of year. On Nov. 11 a parade will begin at 3 p.m. near the Rotunda of St. Martin at Vyšehrad. Later that day, the Striped Doll Theater will put on a retelling of the legend of St. Martin with shadow puppets accompanied by songs and live music.

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