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Out & About in Switzerland: The festival of St Martin

Riva S. Vitale is one of the many pictureseque villages in Ticino's Mendrisiotto region.

(Switzerland Tourism)

The St Martin's Fair is one of the year's big events in towns across the country, including Mendrisio in canton Ticino and Payerne on Lake Neuchatel. In both places, it has retained its agricultural roots.

Held over three days (November 9 to 12) in Mendrisio and on November 16 in Payerne this year, it's a festival honouring the 4th century saint.

In Mendrisio the fair is held on the grounds of the church bearing the saint's name. Stalls offer dried fish, roasted chestnuts, various sweets, and toys and clothing. Many visitors also light a candle for the saint in the church.

In Payerne, the occasion marks the end of work on the farm for another year and the beginning of winter. The local restaurants serve local specialties including pigs' trotters and tripe.

St Martin's Fair (Western feast day, November 11) was also traditionally the time when peasant farmers paid their tithes to the church, and when alms were given to the poor.

As an officer in the Roman army, the saint - according to legend - shared his coat with a cold beggar. He is the patron saint of the poor and is considered one of the first great leaders of monasticism.


Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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