In every season of the year and in every village or town of Abruzzo, during the 12 mont hs of the year it is a succession of traditions and festivities of folklore that involve the whole communities.
SULMONA (EASTER SUNDAY)
THE VIRGIN THAT ESCAPES : The event of the “Virgin that escapes in the square” on Easter Sunday morning is organized for centuries by the brotherhood of S.Maria of Loreto.
Of medieval origins, it evokes Christ’s Resurrection with a unique in its kind folkloristic-religious function. Garibaldi square is crowed .
In one of the square side, under the arches of the Swabian aqueduct it is visible the throne with the statue of risen Christ. On the opposite side there is the church of S. Filippo from where the mourning Virgin will come out at the initiative of the two disciples of Jesus, S. Peter and S. John that have given her the good news of Christ’s resurrection.
The two Saints in turns go and knock at her door but she will believe only in S. John at his third attempt.
Jesus’ mother this time obeys at S. John ‘s invitation, the doors of the church open and she leaves. The ritual is complex and articulated : the Virgin walks with cadenced and uncertain step between the church and the centre of the square because she is still incredulous and upset by the grief .
In the middle of the square Jesus’mother gazes at the horizon and recognizes her son risen waiting for her. Now the Virgin rushes and drops her black mourning cloak.
She wears her green dress, the spring colour, and she is heralding of good auspices while pigeons fly in the sky at the same time of bursts of firecrackers.
Once again a very ancient rite that goes beyond Christianity has been carried out .
BUCCHIANICO (MONTH OF MAY) FESTIVITY OF ”BANDERESI”
The festivity of “Banderesi” is a suggestive historic-popular commemoration of a supposed attack from troops of the Chieti town or, according to others , from mercenary troops against Bucchianico village.
The legend wants that, around the XIV century, the little town was about to be invaded byenemy troops.
The inhabitants of the near conuntryside were forced to go back inside the town walls defended by the Captain of militias, the so-called “Sergentiere”.
Men and women hurried to reach the village bringing with them all their supplies.
The first ones with red and blue strips , that are also the colours of Bucchianico municipality badge, on board of carts drawn by oxen,the second ones with big basketson their heads.
Bucchianico, destined to surround because of its poor defense, was saved by S. Urbano that appeared in dream to the “sergentiere”, head of militias, pointing to him the military strategies to use in order to avoid defeat.
The plan wanted all men, wearing the typical red and blue strips and a tuft of colorful feathers, to run tirelessly on the town walls making their army appear very numerous.
The teatine troops fell in deception and scared gave up the attack and withdrew.
The event evokes every year the escape of people from the countryside as far as the inside of the walls, with a long and very colorful procession of men, women and children wearing costumes and carts full of any kind of food.
One of the most suggestive moments of the event is a dance called “ciammaichella”,that is a wonder in march in the town square through displacements in a zig.
The knightly medieval roundabout is also very charming.
FARA FILIORUM PETRI (JANUARY)
Farchie : Saint Antony of January is celebrated with “farchie”.
Traditionally it is said that the festivity of “farchie” was originated by a miracle thanks to S. Antony at the age of French invasion in 1799.
At that time Fara was protected by a big oak wood that covered the whole town.
Coming from Bucchianico towards Guardiagrele, French people wanted to occupy Fara but S. Antony appeared disguised as a general and stopped them.
The saint ordered the troops not to to go beyond the wood and at their refusal he turned the trees into huge flames that upset the soldiers.
“Farchie” are cylindric bundles of reeds tied with red willow boughs having a 70-100 cm. diameter and 7-9 mt. lenght.
They are usually prepared by Colli, Madonna, Mandrone, Forma, Vicenne, Fara Centro,Crepacci, Campo Lungo, Colle Anzolino, Via S. Antonio or Colle San Donato , Sant’Eufemia, Giardino e Pagnotto regions to be carried in the procession on January 16 afternoon as far as the square outside the church of S. Antony of Abate and then they are raise and burn with a nice dance.
HOW THE FESTIVITY DEVELOPS
On 16th January tractors decorated with “farchie” start from the districts.
It is a rule that processions, before starting the journey, recite litanies of the blessed Virgin Mary.
A player of “trevucette” rides the horse of “farchia” while a drummer heads the procession.
The members of the districts drop “farchia” on the ground and headed by a man called “capofarchia” raise it standing.
When all “farchie” are risen the fire starts.
Some firecrackers burn the top as it was a big torch.
LANCIANO (SEPTEMBER) THE ”MASTROGIURATO” : The historic commemoration of “MASTROGIURATO” represents a very awaited event for the whole town of Lanciano and for the thousand of visitors that every year are called by this event.
There are many cultural activities planned : shows, jugglers, music concerts,knights, fighters, dancing, theatre,waders, falconry, flag throwing, jesters, acrobats.
On 1st september a huge historic procession with more than 700 disguised and sometimes foreigner characters, develops through the suggestive historic centre of Lanciano.
At the end of this procession, a solemn investiture ceremony of MASTROGIURATO is celebrated. This ancient character was very powerful in the Napoli kingdom because he sided with the major in town administrative tasks.
The festivity of Serpari takes place on the first Thursday of May.
For those who love strong and primitive shows it is a duty to go to Cocullo on the first Thursday of may. They will find here what theywere looking for;and the memory of what they would see and feel that day will stay with them for the rest of their life.
Noboby can stay insensitive in front of such an exciting religious-folk event.
The rite of snakes brought in procession with the statue of the saint has ancient origins and links.
It likely dates back to the times when Cocullo hosted the cult of Angizia, the goddess that tought the art of antidotes to the primitive people of the “Marsi”that offered her the bloody sacrifice of snakes.
According to Plinio the Old that was the first to describe the incredible heathen ceremony, the ancient people of Marsica had learnt the art of enchanting the snakes from Maso (from which the name of the land where they had settled ), son of the mythical sorceress of Enea Circe.
Others would give to Umbrone, priest and warrior of Angizia, the merit of having tought those people to the activity of making poisonous snakes harmless.
In order to arrange the feast, the so-called “colletta (collection) of San Domenico”, supported by all citizens of the town, has been established.
Specially immigrants, living everywhere, at every return of spring hurry to send the parish priest dollars and pounds, euros, crowns and pesos, and other currency.
Maybe they will be obliged to do overwork in factories but they cannot miss their contribution to the feast of San Domenico.
The snake hunting starts in advance. As the first spring warmth starts melting winter snow ,”serpari” increase their hunting along the slopes of mountains and among stones that surround the village.
FERRAGOSTO and PASQUETTA
“Talami” of Orsogna, in the province of Chieti, is one of the most ancient Easter rites of Abruzzo that dates back to late medieval age and is linked to the tradition of liturgic drama.
This is a really suggestive dramatic representation because it is made up by 6 carts, dragged by tractors besides a 7th one carried on shoulder , with young actors on it interpreting scenes from old and new testament in front of a frescoed backdrop.
On top, a little girl tied to a wheel-and-spoke pattern back, sits standing for “the Virgin” .
In spite of its religious meaning, this event has also been given a meaning of good crop omen for centuries as the “cart of crops” witness. Once it accompanied the parade with the peasants miming the act of digging or harvesting grain.
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New wine, chestnuts and autumn tastes festivity : this festivity takes place in the suggestive centre of Miglianico that is light up for the event by candles on tripods of wrought iron and is heated by braziers of firewood.
The absolute protagonist of the event is wine, that can be tested in personal cups
hanging from partecipants’ necks.
Food area displays typical dishes ,particurlary the ones both salty and sweet made with chestnuts , different kinds of soups , “crispelle” and fried “pizza”, sausages, bacon, and the very tasty local cheese and salumi, everything accompanied by new wine from 5 of the best teatian cellars.
A big brazier,about 2m. long, a wierd tool used to cook at the same time more than 30 kg.of chestnuts is very attractive because of its cooking mechanism: it will be placed in the main square.
During the festivity there will be the 5th edition of “Vinareccio”, a review of tasting and prizegiving of the best new wine or of the year produced handcrafted by farmers and presided by taster technicians of O.N.A.V.
Everybody can take part provided wine is of their own production, delivering the bottles,sealed with iron corks, on Sunday afternoon during the event.
Prizegiving will take place on Sunday evening.
The organization of the event is cared by “Pro loco “ of Miglianico.
THE MARRIAGE of SAN GIUSEPPE (“23 January)
SAN MARTINO sulla MARRUCCINA: the marriage of San Giuseppe and of the Virgin is celebrated at San Martino sulla Marrucina every 23 january, at least for 3 centuries, as a fresco in the church of San Cristinzano witnesses. It portraits the scene of the marriage between the martines patron and the Virgin Mary, drawing inspiration from Raffaello school.
Traditionally it originates from a marriage between two important wealthy characters that decided to establish at that time the chapel of San Giuseppe.
The wedding starts the annual religious festivitiesand is a real reconstruction of a real wedding even if symbolic.
The whole festivity develops in the morning : it starts with a holy mass when the statues of the blessed Virgin and of San Giuseppe are exposed, put at the feet of the altar ( where usually also the chairs of the bride and groom are put in ceremonies) one next to the other facing the believers.
At the end of the mass procession is prepared and both statues tour the village one next to the other like a couple of newlyweds.
At the exact time when the two statues leave the church, like in the normal weddings, flowers and sugared almonds are thrown on them.
The statues are taken in procession from the church of San Cristinziano and cross the whole historic centre so that the newlyweds can bless all the citizens.
The statues , like the other newlyweds that celebrate their wedding here, escorted by the members of san Giuseppe coven ,by its banners and by two rows of citizens, go along the ancient “via della corte” and tour the historic centre, long less than 1 km.
Once the statues are back to the church and are put in front of the altar again, like in a real wedding, blessed sugared almonds are given to the believers, as the blessed Virgin and san Giuseppe would like to share the joy for their marriage with local people and people from other villages .
Sugared almonds , typical products from ancient Abruzzo, are bought and packaged tufts of tulle by members of San Giuseppe coven and by their relatives that usually meet in the house of the coven’ prior .
Tradition of sugared almonds is very old and linked to a member of the coven’s dream to whom San Giuseppe appeared in a dream asking for sugared almonds for his marriage. These ones are blessed on the altar when the statues are back from the procession and are arranged at the feet of the altar in big baskets.
Believers are usually given a tuft of sugared almond for every family as a sign of good omen above all for young couples that are going to get married by the end of the year.
FESTIVITY OF SAN SEBASTIANO (San Sebastiano’s ferry)
ORTONA (CH) On the 20th January one of the most characteristic and much followed tradition is celebrated at Ortona.
To celebrate San Sebastiano a really exceptional pyrotechnical show takes place and between shots, lights and colours it introduces the rite of “barchetta” (little boat) better known as “il vaporetto”.
In the evening, at the end of the religiuos ceremonies, the crowd gathers in front of the cathedral to see the “vaporetto” set off. It is a small boat made of papier-mache suspended in mid ’air to a long iron thread that connects the two ends of the square , pushed by rockets and it has to do a return trip easily supported by the audience.
According to the tradition that goes on since 1936, if the journey proceeds without obstacles , the year will be excellent for fishing and agricolture.
It is compulsary to end the evening with ‘LU PUZZUNET’, a dinner based on “stockfish”, broccoli,and roasted peppers” to be eaten at home or at a typical restaurant.
FORGIVENESS FESTIVITY : ORTONA
After Easter, on the first Sunday of May, the festivity of forgiveness in honour of the patron S.Tommaso Apostolo is celebrated.
The festivity originates from the plenary indulgence that Pope Sisto IV, with seal of 3rd july ,1479 gave to the visitors of the church Santo Apostolo di Cristo.
Since then the cathedral of Ortona is place of pilgrimage from every part of Abruzzo and Molise on Saturday afternoon. They spend the night in the cathedral itself sleeping on the floor.”A solemn novena with very good singers and complete orchestra comes before the feast.
On Saturday evening the silver holy bust is exposed after having spent the whole year inside a cript under the chapel. The keys of the cript are eight, three are kept by the bishop, one by the Capitol and four by the mayor of Ortona.
The procession that starts from the municipality to the cathedral is open by the banner of the municipality, by the valet handing a silver tray with the four keys of the cript, followed by citizen authorities.
Before the holy bust is exposed, it is freed of the linen shirt that wraps it and is renewed yearly by a family that had made vows.
The cotton wool that wraps the skull is a relic and a talisman, and the priests during the watch give it to the believers close to the altar creating sometimes fanatism scenes.
The solemn procession of the holy bust takes place on Sunday early afternoon and the baldachin is carried by sailors that has a special reverence for the fisherman Apostol.
In every quarter of the village the procession is accompanied by noisy shots.
During the solemn sung mass celebrated by the bishop, at the moment of “gloria” the row of gifts offered to the patron by people, enters the church. They are big doughnuts of unleavened bread carried on wide wooden stands decorated with laurel.
After the Sunday evening function, the bust of the apostol is closed inside the cript : this ceremony that always takes place in front of civil and religious authorities is called in local dialect “LU RIPONNE”.
The festivity of forgiveness goes from Saturday to Monday : on the last day “la maggiolata” is celebrated : it is a fair of the songs of Abruzzo started in 1920 thanks to a group of young people led by the master Guido Albanese and the poet Luigi Dommarco: gradually it has increased its importance and has gone beyond the borders of the region.
The “Maggiaiuoli” that wear ancient costumes pass by the main street on farm carts decorated artistically with flowers and festoons and from time to time stop and sing 3 songs.
LA SQUILLA ( 23 DECEMBER)
At Lanciano Christmas celebrations start before than anywhere else for more than three centuries more exactly in the early evening of the day before Christmas eve when the tradition of “la squilla” is repeated.
The origins of this tradition date back to the year 1607 when Paolo Tasso, bishop of the town,a well known person for his piey and devotion, started to go on penitential pilgrimage on 23rd evening on bare foot as far as the church of Iconicella.
The bishop’s devotional practice was acompanied by the stroke of “la squilla”and ended with the pastoral hug with his believers that , in that occasion extended feelings of solidarity and love also in the family area.
Since then, on 23rd of every year, about nightfall,the street of the town are filled with unusual animation.
The shops close the shutters , passarby exchange wishes and at the first strokes of the bell called “la squilla”, situated on the civic tower, everyone starts towards the church of Iconicella, about 3 km. far from the town centre.
Here a short religious ceremony takes place giving citizens the opportunity to meet and renew friendship and civil solidarity ties . After that, everyone goes back home.
At 7 p.m. when the solemn peal of all churches is added to the ring of “la squilla” , everybody in Lanciano continues the touching tradition of “baciamano” (=handkiss) to the family head or to the oldest person in the family.
The home ceremony develops in an atmosphere of respect and often marks the overcoming of little misunderstandigns or the end of conflicts.
Young people exchange wishes with their parents that bless them and give them Christmas presents.
After that, the family gathers around the table and a particular feast dinner starts :
It is not like a Christmas eve as regards the number of courses but it is a special dinner all the same.
In houses with chimneys the fire is lighted and the family head puts on the fire “il tecchio”, that will last until Epiphany day .
SAN NICOLA GRECO FESTIVITY AND SANT’ANTONIO ( MAY)
GUARDIAGRELE : San Nicola Greco is the saint patron of Guardiagrele : his relics were given to the community by Napoleone Orsini in 1338 and are stored in the church of San Francesco.
The festivity in his honour take place during the third Sunday of the month of may: at that time the citizens organize a fair , the first of the year, for which local artisans prepare different types of products.
The statue of the saint is taken in procession through the streets of the village acompanied by a musical band, while every 25 years the urn with the relics of the saint leaves the sanctuary to tour the village.