São martinho Day Customs and Traditions Portugal St. Martin's

Over the centuries, St. Martins Day, in late Autumn, has evolved into a celebration of the harvest. In Portugal,St. Martins Day, or Dia de São Martinho, has become a day to celebrate the maturation of the year’s wine production.

On this day a large party is held. A bonfire is built, people dance and sing around it and roast the recently-harvested chestnuts (sometimes dry figs and walnuts), and drink a local light alcoholic beverage called “água-pé” – (literally “foot-water”) made by adding water to the pomace left after the juice is pressed out of the grapes for wine (traditionally by stomping on them in vats with bare feet, and letting it ferment for several days) – or the “jeropiga”, a sweet liquor made with “aguardente”. Traditionally is also the first day when the first wines of the season, called the new wines, can be tasted. This is celebration festival is known as a magusto (believed to come from the Latin magnus ustus or “great fire”).

Nelson_Carvalheiro_Portugal wines bike tour cycling
Photo: Nelson Carvalheiro

If you’re in Portugal on November 11, you’ll want to be at a magusto. Many Portuguese restaurants will offer special menus and events at this date.

As they say in Portugal: É dia de São martinho. Comem-se castanhas; prova-se o vinho! (“It is St. Martins Day. We’ll eat chestnuts; we’ll taste the wine.”)

This period is also quite popular because of the usual good weather period that occurs in Portugal in this time of year, called Verão de São Martinho (St. Martins Summer). It is frequently tied to the legend since Portuguese versions of St. Martin’s legend usually replace the snowstorm with rain (because snow is not frequent in most parts of Portugal, while rain is common at that time of the year) and have Jesus bringing the end of it, thus making the “summer” a gift from God.

Curious to know more about this tradition? Take a look at this post!