St. Mennas's Day

St. Mennas's Day

Type of Holiday: Religious (Orthodox Christian)
Date of Observation: November 11
Where Celebrated: Greece
Symbols and Customs: Scissors

ORIGINS

The name Mennas means "messenger, revealer." It is believed that St. Mennas has the power to reveal where lost or stolen items lie hidden. He is therefore very important to shepherds who have lost their sheep or who wish to protect them against wolves. In Greece, his day is observed by the many shepherds who must guide their sheep through the rough, mountainous terrain. There are actually two different saints by the name of Mennas. One was a camel driver in Egypt who enlisted in the Roman army. When his legion reached Phrygia, he discovered that the Roman emperor, Diocletian, had started persecuting Christians. He left the army and hid in a mountain cave there to avoid persecution. But then, during the annual games held in the arena at Cotyaeum, he boldly entered the arena and announced that he was a Christian-an act of courage for which he was beheaded in 295 C . E . The other St. Mennas was a Greek from Asia Minor who became a hermit in the Abruzzi region of Italy and died in the sixth century. There is an old proverb that says winter announces its arrival on St. Mennas's Day, November 11, and arrives on St. Philip's Day, November 15. The basis of saint day remembrances-for St. Mennas as well as other saints-is found in ancient Roman tradition. On the anniversary of a death, families would share a ritual meal at the grave site of an ancestor. This practice was adopted by Christians who began observing a ritual meal on the death anniversary of ancestors in the faith, especially martyrs. As a result, most Christian saint days are associated with the death of the saint. There are three important exceptions. John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus are honored on their nativities (birthdays). Many who suffered martyrdom are remembered on saint days in the calendars of several Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant sects.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Scissors

In Greece, shepherds' wives refrain from using scissors on St. Mennas's Day. Instead, they wind a thread around the points of their scissors-a symbolic action designed to keep the jaws of wolves closed and the mouths of the village gossips shut.

FURTHER READING

Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Ickis, Marguerite. The Book of Festivals and Holidays the World Over. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1970. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

St. Mennas's Day

November 11
There are actually two different saints by the name of Mennas. One was born in Egypt and enlisted in the Roman army. He hid in a mountain cave in Phrygia to avoid persecution, but then boldly entered the arena at Cotyaeum and proclaimed that he was a Christian—an act of courage for which he was beheaded in 295. The second St. Mennas was a Greek from Asia Minor who became a hermit in the Abruzzi region of Italy and died in the sixth century.
In Greece, St. Mennas's Day is observed by shepherds. Because he has the power to reveal where lost or stolen objects lie, his name is invoked by shepherds who have lost their sheep, or who wish to protect their flocks from wolves. Shepherds' wives refrain from using scissors on St. Mennas's Day. Instead, they wind a thread around the points of the scissors—a symbolic action designed to keep the jaws of wolves closed and the mouths of the village gossips shut. St. Mennas's Day is also regarded as the beginning of the winter season.
SOURCES:
BkFestHolWrld-1970, p. 124
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 653
OxYear-1999, p. 457