There are many traditions that unite the regions of Italy in the Christmas period, some vastly different from each other and others very similar.
Abruzzo, with its snow-capped mountains and the streets of the villages lit up with Christmas lights, is full of traditions that are still alive and felt especially by older people who pass them down to new generations.
The rite of the ceppo is an example. This ancient tradition consisted of burning a torch that had been chosen and set aside from the night of Christmas Eve until New Year’s night, without letting the flame go out.
The burning torch symbolizes the year drawing to a close and with it, all the negativity of the year. This ritual represented a very important event for each Abruzzese family, who gathered for the lighting while reciting a sort of prayer aloud. “Rejoice for tomorrow is the day of bread. May God’s blessings enter into this home. Let the women have children, and goats their kids, sheep their lambs, and let the wheat produce flour, and the wine flow!” At the end of this propitiatory fire, the ash was spread on the ground to make it more fertile.
Another custom linked to fire (also read “The Night of the Faugni“) is rooted in the small village of Tufillo, in the province of Chieti. The farchia, a long torch held together by iron rings that can be up to 20 meters long, is the protagonist of this magical event.
On the afternoon of December 24th, the farchia is dragged through the historic center of town until it reaches the church of Santa Giusta.
During the procession, the torch bearers stop along the way for sweets, wine and music. At midnight, in the square of the church of Santa Giusta, the parish priest sets fire to the great farchia while the faithful crowd sings Christmas carols.
The Squilla, or the “ringing of the bells” is another integral part of Christmas in Abruzzo in Lanciano, in the province of Chieti. The origins of this tradition date back to 1588 to 1607, when the archbishop Tasso reached the Iconicelle Church barefoot on December 23rd. The name of this custom derives from a bell that was rung by the archbishop during the 3 km walk. The pilgrimage symbolized the journey of the shepherds who were heading towards the manger of Bethlehem.
Today, the sound of the bell on December 23rd symbolizes the beginning of the Christmas holidays. During the afternoon, the faithful retrace the journey of Archbishop Tasso from Piazza Plebiscito to the Church of the Iconicelle.
Christmas in Abruzzo remains a holiday that is deeply rooted in ancient traditions where true values are passed down through the stories of the elderly from generation to generation.
Copyright photos: travelblog.it; www.italiaemagazine.it