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Traditions from Italy

Every country has events specific to them. Some normal, some strange, and some outright BIZARRE! Here are some of Italy’s traditions:

La Befana

La Befana, meaning ‘The good witch’ is a tradition similar to Christmas. La Befana coincides with the feast of Epiphany. It is a public holiday where kids leave out stockings over fireplaces and windows for La Befana to fill with toys. It is often overshadowed by the modern tradition of Santa Claus. But what is the story?

The story goes that during the birth of Jesus, the three wise men invited a witch-like woman (a strega) to come along, however, she declined saying that she was too busy with housework. She then changed her mind and tried to follow them but was unsuccessful, so the kind-hearted Befana gave the toys to other children.

She gives sweets to good children and lumps of coal to bad children, now replaced by black liquorice. Then, before she leaves, she is known for sweeping the house.

Palio de Siena

Palio de Siena is one of the most awaited events in Tuscany, Italy. Twice a year, in Piazza del Campo, a horse race takes place. The districts compete and it has been going on since 1633.

The event is in 2 parts - Palio della Madonna di Provenzano and Palio della Assunta. Palio della Madonna di Provenzano is on July 2nd every year, it is a Marian devotion for Siena. This developed from an icon in the Terzo Camollia area of the city. Palio dell’Assunta is the same but instead it honours the Assumption of Mary.

Scoppio del Carro

Scoppio del Carro, translating to ‘explosion of the carts’, is a yearly celebration including a large antique cart, 2 white oxen, a mechanical dove, musicians, medieval costumes, and a whole load of fireworks.

Every year, on Easter Sunday, at around 09:00, men in medieval costumes parade through the streets in orchestrated routines using flags. At 10:00, the cart begins to roll along the paths and roads setting off fireworks and pyrotechnics.

This is a very ancient tradition which roots all the way back to the 11th century. It is stated that a noble named Pazzino di Ranieri de’ Pazzi journeyed to the holy land, scaled the walls of Jerusalem, declared it a Christian country, and raised the Crusaders banner. Returning to Florence, he brought 3 flints. These were used to light the ‘new fire’. It used to be a large fire transported around via the cart but people began filling it with explosive powder instead. This evolved into fireworks.

By Freddie Bertorelli 8L

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