Saturday, November 12, 2011

St. Martin's Day Market

This week, Estonia celbrated Mardipäev, or St. Martin's Day. The day is named for St. Martin, a Roman soldier who was baptised and became a monk later in life. He apparently cut his cloak in half to give to a beggar to keep the beggar from dying from the cold, then that night had a dream where Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me."

The feast day is, I think, November 11, but I know that Estonian kids went out on Wednesday night. I think because of the history of the day being associated with the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of winter period, and associated fairs where the men went looking for work, children now dress men and go door to door, singing songs in exchange for candy. Like Halloween but different.

No kids came to my door, largely because I live in a building with security and such, but I did get to go to the St. Martin's Day Market. The market is filled with vendors from all across the country who come in to sell their handmade crafts. It is a chance to get some beautiful handmade work for a little less than it sells in the Old City and with much greater variety than you can find there.

The market was packed, and in addition to getting to watch folk dancing of all kinds and getting to see President Ilves' wife sign books, there was everything there from knitted sweaters and gloves, to iron work, baskets, woodwork, blown glass, and then some. There were, in addition to craftspeople from Estonia, also folks from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Turkey and Slovenia. Needless to say, my Christmas shopping is nearly complete...and my checking account is a bit lighter!

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