Mārtiņi or Mārtiņdiena is an ancient Latvian winter welcoming holiday when the time of pieguļa and shepherding came to an end. According to a solar calendar, Mārtiņdiena marks the midpoint between the autumnal equinox (Miķeļi) and winter solstice (Ziemassvētki), and is celebrated in the middle of November. Mārtiņi ended Veļu laiks (Time of the Dead) and started Ledus laiks (Time of Ice), when the swamp became passable and raids of armed men sitting on horses were expected.
The holiday has already acquired its name before the 16th century, during which happened the reformation of churches by Livonian Order’s sacred memorial day in honor of a Roman soldier Martin (Martinus), who sat on the horse, offering his cloak to a poor man suffering from coldness. Then he learned through dreams, that it was Jesus himself. Christian legend tells, that Martin did not want to become a bishop and hid away in the poultry barn, however, the local church nationals meanwhile walked around and they discovered him because of poultry’s noisiness. Therefore, the Latvian Mārtiņi beliefs and predictions are not only associated with horses and clothes, but also with poultry slaughter and Children of Mārtiņi march.
This is the first day of Budēļi / Ķekatas. It is a Latvian mummer-style tradition of the costumed house calling during the winter months (from Mārtiņdiena till late spring). Some people believed that wearing of the masks was a ritual which could decide on the following year’s fortunes.
Others – to visit neighbors and to have a fun time together during dances and games. Masks – ranging from animal costumes like bears, horses, cranes, wolfs, goats to death masks, and living corpses. They also use old pans, spoons and etc. to make “music”. Mummers travel from house to house and from village to village. When mummers enter the homestead, they sing and dance around, ask for some food and drinks. They play games and dance between themselves and together with the family members of the household.
Ķekatas bring good fortune to any house they visit – provided you treat them nice! You have to let them in when you hear them knocking at the door – be kind to them, offer some treats to eat, dance and sing with them.
Halloween takes over our traditions cause it’s easier than Ķekatas! This year all my girls are big enough and we wanted to participate in such event but nothing happening around here… Sad! Last year there was a poster with information where will be “folk person” who know all the songs and traditions. I guess only “folk person” showed up! I took part in such event 20 years ago 😦
I guess I need to dress up my girls and go to Janis parents house at least….