St Martin’s feast occurs at a time when walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and dried figs are found aplenty in Malta, and hence the saying “hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, figs – oh how I love St Martin”.
St Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier, who was converted to Christianity in his adulthood following a dream which he had after helping out a poor man on the street.
In Maltese culture, St Martin’s feast is celebrated on the Sunday closest to November 11, in the village of Baħrija, where an annual fair and small procession takes place.
There are many traditional recipes related to the feast with the “Torta ta San Martin” (St Martin’s Tart) and “Il-Borża ta’ San Martin” (St Martin’s Bag), being the most common. All recipes feature a mixture of figs, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and oranges.
The “Borża ta San Martin” was and is still very popular with children as they receive a bag full of the assorted nuts (still in their shells), fruits which include oranges, tangerines and pomegranates and sweets. The bags were also decorated for the occasion, and the larger and fuller they were was a reflection of wealth by the giver.
St Martin’s feast will be held on 17th November 2014.