Legend has it that St. Martin of Tours was born on November 11, 316. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote about the saint, ducks, geese, folklore, and food…. – Jadi
November 11th, or 11/11, is an odd German holiday known as St. Martin’s Day (Martinstag). St. Martin of Tours (316 – 297 CE) is a saint associated with modesty and altruism (aren’t they all?). Legend has it that St. Martin slashed his cloak in half to save a homeless person from freezing. His holiday used to be followed by a fast that lasted a long, hungry period of weeks, stretching out to Christmas. 
But St. Martin’s Day is celebrated here in southern Germany by eating a special dish of duck or goose (Martinsgans), accompanied by red cabbage cooked with apple, and homemade dumplings known as knödel.
When it gets dark, nighttime glows with candles from lantern processions (Martinsumzüge or Laternenumzüge). The streets fill with adults, accompanying children who carry hand-made lanterns. In our village the procession is led by an actor dressed up as the saint. In some areas the parade follows behind an actor dressed up as a Roman soldier on horseback. 
The tradition to eat a goose (today usually replaced by a duck) on St. Martin’s Day is believed to go back the medieval tax system. November 11th was one of the days when medieval vassals had to pay taxes, and peasants often paid with a goose.  Another popular story is that a gaggle of honking geese betrayed Martin’s hiding place: he hid in a goose pen when the people of Tours wanted to make him a bishop. 
All the local restaurants and beer gardens have duck and goose dishes on their menus. Reserve your table now! they cajole.
In all the years I lived in San Francisco, I never ordered or willingly ate duck. Bizarrely shiny, glistening, reddish shellacked duck carcasses hang on meat hooks in the front windows of Chinese restaurants throughout the city. And hang. And hang. And hang. Just the idea of the oldness and congealed fat covered with flies of this ‘special dish’ turned my stomach. Strongly flavored meat that’s been aging for probably as long as the restaurant’s been in business? Yuck! I’ll take a pass…
But I recall with glee the Peking duck Uwe and I ate in Beijing. The restaurant specialized in only Peking duck, along with all the pomp and circumstance such a dish demands.
Our Chinese friend Weiyu orders for us, but every single table wants the same meal. Waiters are formally dressed, complete with chefs’ toques, mouth masks and protective gloves. By the end of the evening they carve hundreds of plates of duck.
May November 11th bring you flights of fancy and a visit from the Bluebird of Happiness. By now the ducks and geese, indeed, all migrating birds have already left for warmer climates. Winter is coming.
Have a great St. Martin’s Day.
NOTES: [1,4] German Holidays Time and Date  Martin was a Roman soldier before becoming a saint… See also wiki/St. Martin’s Day.  Medieval peasants had it rough. Taxes were collected on St. George’s Day as well, upon marriage and death, and spring and fall. Source: Peasantry Their Problem and Protest in Assam (1858-1894) by Kamal Chandra Pathak. A group of ducks on water is called a paddling. The collective noun for geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump. Quora ©Jadi Campbell 2018 & 2021. Previously published as Duck Duck Goose or The Animal Kingdom: A Paddling. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. For more about ducks and geese go to my earlier posts The Animal Kingdom: 1 and 15. Say this 3 times, fast: Future posts feature four feathered friends!
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9 thoughts on “Taxes + Skeins + Saint Martin of Tours”
The procession sounds delightful, and the Peking duck fabulous. I also had Peking duck in Beijing but yours sounds (and looks) better!
Our friend Weiyu made the arrangements and knew just where she wanted to take us to eat. Their Peking duck was so good!
I enjoyed reading your article. A very interesting tour with wonderful landscapes and exquisite food. Greetings Jadi.
Glad you liked it – I enjoy writing up the historical details with all their fun facts and absurdity
A story so well done that one would like to live that experience
Your post made my mouth water, Jadi. Now the only question is what kind of beer is best paired with duck.
I would suggest a stout or bockbier, or go in the other direction with an amber ale. Let me know what you decide!
Mom used to make it for Christmas dinner, with oyster dressing. One of my fondest memories.
Oh my God, my mother would make a side dish of oyster dressing that only she and I would eat – I’ve been jonesing for it ever since.