Google Doodle on November 11 Celebrates Happy St. Martin’s Day

As per tradition, Google’s logo has morphed once again into another commemorative Doodle that represents a significant date in history, such as a popular holiday or a famous person’s birthday. Last November 11, 2011, the Google Doodle showed a pair of roasted chestnuts standing in for the two ‘O’s and sets of fig branches forming the rest of the letters. These symbolize the celebration of Martinmas or St. Martin’s Day in Portugal.

Happy St. Martin’s Day, or Feliz Dia de São Martinho, in Portugal traditionally involves wine and roasted magusto (chestnuts, dry figs or walnuts) around bonfires. Aside from wines, locals also drink água-pe or foot water, which is a light alcoholic drink, and sweet jeropiga, which is stronger liquor.

To the people of Portugal, the magusto represents an ancient sacrifice to honor the dead. A bowl of chestnuts is an important piece in every home come St. Martin’s Day. The people believe that the souls of their dead relatives come back at midnight and dine with them, particularly eating the magusto. Moreover, some of the Portuguese blacken their faces with the ashes from the bonfire as they drink wine and savor the roasted chestnuts.

Aside from Portugal, countries like Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Malta, Denmark, and Austria also celebrate Martinmas or Martinstag either on the 10th or the 11th day of November. Similar to Halloween in the Americas, this day also brings treats to children, especially in Malta where they carry a borza, or St. Martin’s bag. This day also marks the beginning of winter, which means harvest must be stored and wood must be stacked for fuel.

Strangely, most countries that celebrate St. Martin’s Day experience a short period of St. Martin’s Summer, which is more popularly known as “Indian summer” in modern English. This is a brief spell of warmth before the biting cold of winter comes and halts the cycle of life. Aside from St. Martin’s Day, the Google Doodle during the 11th day of November also celebrates Veteran’s Day in the United Staetd and the United Kingdom.