We The Italians | Italian traditions: Traditional Festivals in Abruzzo, precious land

Italian traditions: Traditional Festivals in Abruzzo, precious land

Italian traditions: Traditional Festivals in Abruzzo, precious land

  • WTI Magazine #102 Apr 14, 2018
  • 2022

Abruzzo is a precious land for its position in our peninsula, a region that collects ancient traditions that draw the sense of identity and pride of its people. Today, more than ever, a sense of belonging has been re-evaluated in the light of what has happened in the territory due to the earthquakes that, after the earthquake that struck L'Aquila in 2009, have again wounded many areas of the region this year.

Defined "strong and kind", the Abruzzese people with effort and pride continues to move in the wake of traditional culture respecting rituals and festive celebrations that come from their fathers. This is a reality that is breathed especially in small towns, villages and districts that pursue cultural resistance and pass the baton to young people, a true beating heart and hope for continuity. This region includes many aspects of nature: mountains such as the Gran Sasso and Majella massifs, plains, lakes and the coast bathed by the Adriatic Sea.

Geographical exemplification is useful to understand how articulated the development of traditional culture has been, which has found adaptation and purpose according to the diversity of places. The harshness of the winter climate in mountain and foothill areas, mentioned in many passages of literature and which has forced people to transhumance, softens as one descends towards the coast. Spring awakening has allowed, over time, new or repeated meetings of groups to celebrate festivities linked to the good season, which were interwoven with the memory of miracles that took place during religious rites, or seasonal celebrations to promote harvests. Similarly, the festivities linked to the rhythms of summer marked devotion and thanksgiving in the communities for the crops that had been harvested or begging for salvation at sea. Here we can mention the multiform festive variety as folds of a colourful fan that opens up on this region.

The rebirth of vegetation is the obvious reason for many rituals, because the month of May is full of anniversaries in which Spring was to be called through the rains that were to wet the fields where the small plants began to grow: water that had not to be too abundant, otherwise they would rot. The "Festa delle Verginelle" in Rapino, in the province of Chieti, commemorates the miracle of rain on May 8th together with the cult of the Madonna del Carpino, an arboreal Madonna like the "Madonna della Croce" that the inhabitants of Pietranico, in the province of Pescara, celebrate on the first Sunday of the same month.

Many festivals associate the religious moment with the meeting of groups of pilgrims who move from neighboring towns to meet the inhabitants of the village where the celebration takes place. For the procession of the "Madonna dello Splendore" in Giulianova, in the province of Teramo on April 22nd, pilgrims from the nearby village of Cologna are expected. In Pratola Peligna the procession of the "Madonna della Libera" meets near the village the large group that arrives from Gioia dei Marsi, both in the province of L'Aquila, and then advance in procession to the church where the pilgrims enter, many of them proceeding on their knees. In Ortona (CH) on the first Sunday of May the celebrations in honor of St. Thomas begin when the devotees from Campli (TE) arrive for the link that connects the two towns to Margarita d'Austria, daughter of Charles V, who married a man from the Farnese family.

Nature is intertwined with devotion with floral trophies that join religious faith to the repetition of ancestral rites often underlying more modern rituals as is the case with the Majo of San Giovanni Lipioni, in the province of Chieti: here the good will and passion of the young people of the town repeat on May 1st a very ancient celebration. The vegetation is renewed and the May tree is set up, again on May 1st, Tornimparte (AQ), taking the name of "Calende".

On the mountains the destination of many pilgrims moves towards the L'Aquila area in Balsorano for the devotion in the cave on May 8th and later, on 18th, in San Venanzio to rub on the lytic footprints of the saint and avoid the pains of the body through the archaic method of lithotherapy. In the celebratory renewal are not excluded animals such as the harmless snakes that wrap around the statue of San Domenico in Cocullo (AQ) on May 1st or the terrible wolf tamed by the same saint in Pretoro (CH) or the ox consecrated to San Zopito in Loreto Aprutino (PE) on the 22nd of the same month.

Marvellous canefore (the girls who carried on her head in a basket the objects of worship in the sacred rites of ancient Greece ) parade in costume in Bucchianico (CH) for the feast of Sant'Urbano and the commemoration of the Banderesi. Baskets full of flowers parade behind a sacrificial calf that will feed the participants on May 21st. Seasonal cults are renewed by diving in the sea on the morning of June 24th on the occasion of the anniversary of St. John the Baptist: episodes related to the assault of the Saracens are exorcised with the costume commemoration of the battle won by the inhabitants of Tollo (CH) with the help of Our Lady, the first Sunday of August.

On the summer holidays, when the harvests have taken place, the food offered evokes the cereals, especially in the preparation of donuts in many places in Abruzzo. The color of the wheat seems to be reflected in the shine of the gold covering the effigies carried in procession. In Goriano Sicoli (AQ), Santa Gemma is carried in procession in May; on August 7th is celebrated in many places as San Donato Castel di Ieri (AQ); on August 16th the cult of San Rocco has roots in many countries such as Roccamontepiano (CH) and Castelvecchio Subequo (AQ).

Although more recent, on the summer sea many boat marches leave the ports to celebrate saints like St. Andrew in Pescara on the last Sunday in July or the Madonna del Portosalvo in Giulianova (TE), the first Sunday in August. Flowers spread out into the sea in a marriage between man and the marine element. Rites that still mark the rhythm of living in the repetitions of reassuring gestures inherited from the strong culture of tradition.


by Alessandra Gasparroni for Il Folklore