Martinmas Eve (in Danish mortensaften) is celebrated on November 10, the evening before St. Martin's Day. Saint Martin of Tours – Morten or Morten Bisp in Danish – left the Roman army aged 18 after a few years of service, was baptised and became a missionary and a monk.
Saint Martin's Day is November 11, the day when Saint Martin was elected Bishop of Tours in 371. According to the legend, Saint Martin humbly tried to avoid becoming a bishop and therefore hid among a gaggle of geese. The geese cackled and thus revealed him. Consequently he decided that every year on November 11 the geese must lose their lives to be eaten.
A culinary tradition
The legend of the geese is but one of many legends about Saint Martin, but it is the one that has given rise to the celebration of Martinmas Eve in Denmark. Mortensaften is celebrated with traditional dinners: roast goose or duck. In the past it used to be goose but nowadays the goose (mortensgås) is often replaced with a duck (mortensand). One third of the ducks that are sold on a yearly basis are sold at Martinmas Eve, which may indicate that approximately one fourth of all Danes uphold the tradition; eating mortensand is one of the most solid traditions of Danish cuisine. Martinmas Eve is not celebrated in the church.