Have you ever wondered about your love of a good fire, a passion you can’t describe that was stoked by your Grandparents from Abruzzo especially when they griddled some of their chunky home-made sausages over it.
Your Abruzzo heritage comes with an affinity for fires that were part of the seasonal life cycle of farmers in Abruzzo. Without the household fire there would be no food, family, and life harder than imaginable high in the mountains during a harsh winter. Although the labour of men was valued outside the house, it was the housewives who earned the nickname ‘angeli del fuoco’ – angels of the fire/heath.
Saint Anthony Abbot was the patron saint of small-holders hence his popularity in Abruzzo. January 17th is his feast day, a date adopted from earlier pagan post solstice festivals when fires were lit to ward off disease and evil, welcome the warming sun back and nurture the new crops so vital to the family and successful village life.
The most famous celebration is Fara Filorium Petri in the province of Chieti, when the local villages come together to burn the giant 8 metre high canes that they have spent the year collecting whilst out gathering their kindling for the next winter. Densely packed and strung together they create the most perfect long burning torches named locally as farachi. As they are lit the villagers remember San Antonio Abate who appeared to the locals when they were surrounded by the French Army in 1799. Simultaneous with his appearance, the oak trees that circled the village burst into flames and the French army fled fearing giant warriors.
In Barisciano that sits below one of our favourite Medici hilltop towns, Santo Stefano di Sessanio in L’Aquila, they celebrate St John the Baptist Day again with fire. June 24th was the day the Romans celebrated their summer solstice and it’s recreated in Barisciano with the construction of a large fire in the main piazza that children and teenagers jump though after wetting their clothes with the in the ancient animal water troughs that sit nearby. The summer fire traditionally celebrated the end of the harvest, when olive & fruit tree prunings were burnt to symbolise healing, purification and fertility and of course the return of the shepherds back in Abruzzo from warmer climes for the summer.
Of course all Abruzzo ‘fire’ celebrations are accompanied by amazing food, wine and traditional dancing! If it is time to learn more about your Abruzzo heritage make sure you combine it whilst attending the sagra that your ancestors celebrated, if in doubt sure let Italia Sweet Italia organise your Abruzzo ancestry trip, after all you don’t want to miss out on the party!
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