One of the few holidays we celebrate in Denmark during the autumn is Mortensaften on November 11th. Although it is not an official holiday, many people still mark the occasion by having duck for dinner together.
But who is this Morten that is celebrated? Actually, the Morten in question was not even named Morten – he was named Martin. The story goes that the Roman people wanted Martin, who by that time was a soldier, to become Bishop of Tours in the Roman Empire. Martin had no desire to obtain that title, so he tried to resist his impending election as bishop by hiding in a geese pin. However, the geese pin was not the ideal hiding spot. Eventually, the birds’ chippering revealed Martin’s hiding spot and he was forced to become bishop. As a form of revenge over the geese, Saint Marten asked townspeople to slaughter a goose once a year and eat it. That is how Mortensaften came to be.
In Denmark, the traditional Mortensaften has been celebrated for centuries with the first documents of the celebration dating back to 1616. It is, however, believed that the tradition dates back to the Middle Ages where people ate goose and duck as an offering to the saint.