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Mortensaften in Denmark

Saturday the 10th of November the Danes are celebrating Mortensaften, which can be seen as the Danish (somewhat different) equivalent to the American Thanksgiving dinner.

The story behind Mortensaften

The Danes celebrate the Eve of Saint Martin’s day, or in Danish ‘Mortensaften’, to commemorate the Christian bishop Martin of Tours, who was known to heal the sick and helped the poor. Martin of Tours was soon known as a holy man, but he did not wish to become bishop, despite the citizens of Tours wanting him as their bishop. The story says that he hid among geese to avoid becoming bishop of the city of Tours, but the geese made noise and he was found soon after. After he was announced as bishop of Tours, he demanded that each household should slaughter and eat one goose on this day every year.

Mortensaften today

The story came to Denmark around 1616 and the Danes adopted the tradition of eating geese. However, since geese were not that common in Denmark back in the olden days, some people ate other birds instead – mainly ducks. Today, people commonly eat duck on Mortensaften, and it is still a popular tradition.

You don’t have to do a lot to participate in this tradition, just eat either duck or goose with friends or family on this evening.


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