Vita Gazette

News from Italy

Feast of San Martino: Feast of traditions horns or bachelors

Whether it is the party of cuckolds or singles according to the country of origin of each, it does not matter. Certainly the feast of St. Martin, which falls every 11th November, is a happy feast! Many popular traditions and customs of Italy and beyond are linked to this day. Whether for a climatic or religious reason, it is also referred to as ‘the summer of San Martino’ for the mild temperatures that usually characterize it despite the fact that it is in the middle of autumn. 

San Martino and the power of Good

Legend has it that a young man, Martin von Tours, son of a Roman officer, on a cold February morning meeting a beggar, cut his fine wool cloak in two, offering him one half so that he could warm himself. At that moment the climate changed, the temperatures became milder and the sun came out. Having become a saint, he is considered one of the protectors of the city of Tours and is known in many European countries for his kindness towards foreigners. 

San Martino and the Horns

But the feast of San Martino also coincides with that of the harvest and livestock fairs were often held on this same day. From this, the definition of Feast of the Cuckold probably derives. Many of the animals exhibited had horns: bulls, buffaloes, beaks or the males of goats or sheep. During the fairs, we know, the wine flowed in rivers. The wives had stayed at home and the husbands intoxicated by the fumes of alcohol indulged in some more licentiousness. In Ruviano, in the Caserta area, the festival in honor of the horned is celebrated in which the inhabitants parade through the streets of the town wearing strictly horned headdresses.

In Rocca Canterano, in the province of Rome, every year a procession parades through the streets of the town carrying in procession the symbols of marital betrayal while a poet mocks the participants.

San Martino and the Celtic new year

It is also not to be excluded, finding ourselves in the field of hypotheses, that wives in the absence of their husbands felt freer in their behavior. If one were to think, however, of a more radical connection of this holiday with the definition of ‘horned’, one could think of the Celtic New Year which, falling just in the days close to 11 November, was celebrated with feasts in which the wine flowed abundantly. In this case the link could be the bovid horn used as a drinking vessel. 

San Martino and Kabbalah

And finally, one could also consider the hypothesis that this definition derives from Kabbalah in which the number 11 would refer to the horns and to the terms Dibah, gossip, and Zad, evil. To make this holiday lighter and less unpleasant for the unfortunate ones betrayed, some students from the University of Nanking thought about it, who were the first in China to dedicate this day to all singles in whose honor parties and events were organized. Over time, the initiative of young Chinese students began to spread throughout China and today it is known above all in the rest of the world. Even in Italy it is gradually taking hold to organize, in honor of all those who define themselves as such, theme parties and events. 

In conclusion, whatever consideration or definition you want to give to the feast of San Martino, the spirit of this remains unchanged over time and in values: it is a cheerful feast in which there is no lack of reasons to celebrate life, whether it be in the form of harvest, sharing or a day to dedicate to yourself!  

                                                                                                                                                             Anna Maria Tardiolo  
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