Have you ever heard of San Martino, the Venetian Halloween? Then you’ll be surprised to discover that Halloween in Venice exists and it's a local tradition. San Martino in fact shares some similarities to the American Halloween counterpart, while still being unique.
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Although similar in some aspects, it is not completely equal to the American Halloween. In fact, Venice has developed its own trick and treat habit on San Martino, with a unique tradition.
The first thing that’s a little different in Venice than it is in the States is that Venice’s Halloween is on November 11, not October 31. November 11 is a day dedicated to Saint Martin, one of the most important figures of the Catholic religion. His history in Venice goes back to the 8th century when Saint Martin's church was built in the sestiere of Castello. The church was most likely build by refugees from Ravenna, a city very devoted to the saint.
The tradition of Saint Martin’s Day traces back to centuries ago when people enjoyed seasonal products on November 11th to celebrate the arrival of autumn.
Time passed and the celebration took the form of a party for Venetian children who, like their English-speaking peers on Halloween, go around looking for treats.
What you see and hear in Venice on November 11 is usually fun and VERY loud. That’s because of the way kids trick or treat during this day.
On Saint Martin’s Day, groups of Venetian children, usually led by an adult (most often their teachers), go around the city wearing paper crowns on their heads. They make noise beating pots and pans with wooden spoons, singing a traditional child song in Venetian dialect…and how they love that! You can easily spot and hear them coming from afar.
However, what’s really peculiar about their trick and treat is that they don’t go door to door, but shop to shop counting on the generosity of the shopkeepers to offer candies or a little money.
There is a special treat that you can try on this occasion: San Martino biscuit!
The delicious Saint Martin's biscuits and cakes are displayed in the windows of every pastry and bakery, even in the supermarket!
The biscuits are made of shortcrust pastry, covered in icing, chocolate, and sweets. They represent the story of Saint Martin’s miracle, on which the saint is described on horseback offering his coat to a poor man.
The biscuits are easy to find around Venice, but if you want to order something special for the occasion, you should try to look at Rizzardini Pastry Shop. They have a long family history in pastry-making and have some of the best sweets and cakes in Venice. Moreover, they usually take orders for San Martino.
San Martino celebration sounds like a beautiful, cheerful event (and in many ways, it is), but it also represents the housing crisis that is forcing Venetians to move away from the city center. It’s lovely to see children playing and singing Saint Martin’s songs, but it’s also clear that each year, there are fewer children and the tradition may soon disappear.
This year, the crisis has left us hoping for the better with so many shops shut down. We don't know what San Martino will look like this year, but we wanted t talk about to keep the memory and the tradition alive.
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Roman living in Venice. Plant lover, avid reader and seasonal yogi