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The Fair of San Giuseppe

Boomers.


That is how young people define us, meaning that we are the generation that lived through the economic boom years.


But we fortunately also experienced moments of socialization and traditions, that however are currently not available. In fact the current legislation, in an attempt to limit the spread of the Sars-Cov2 virus, prohibits gatherings that can develop into crowds. Therefore our traditional spring activities cannot take place.


As soon as the 15th of March has passed (Le Idi di Marzo) we used to celebrate a bonfire feast after spending long afternoons gathering bundles of firewood. In the crisp spring air fiery tongues of the bonfire already flashed in the air announcing the feast dedicated to the earthly father of Christ.


This ritual is common in the the Mercure Valley area, but finds its climax in the district of Castelluccio. It is worth remembering such ritual as it was proposed in the last re-style edition.


In recent years the bonfire feasts have not been carried out in accordance with tradition. First of all, social and regulatory changes in the town have had the effect that some of the traditional neighborhoods where sites for bonfires were located, could not be used anymore. had to modify these sites. However, what the bonfire feast represents has not changed. It is a feast combining pagan and sacred elements, but above all, it is a stimulating experience of neighborhood life.


We speak about it in the present tense, symbolizing our hope that we will return to “normality” as soon as possible.


To prepare the bonfire, the people have a common purpose. Boys and adult men scour the countryside to collect shrubs, especially wild brushes to make bundles of firewood. The women, on the other hand dedicate themselves to the preparation of all kinds of delicacies, varying from traditional and typical sweets to treats of more recent origin.


There is an abundance of sausages and local wine on the tables round the bonfire. The feast is open to everyone and so vendors who brought their goods and spent the night outdoor were welcome at the bonfires.


Under the sound of crackling shrubs, the people eat, sing and dance. Basically we can distinguish two types of visitors: the “stanziali”, who stay at one bonfire, and the “transumanti”, who wander from one bonfire to another.


The “stanziali” usually are the people who worked hard to organize everything for their own bonfire and they do not leave their own neighborhood. The “transumanti” are people who take advantage from the work of others, have not done anything in the days leading up to the festival and therefore wander from bonfire to bonfire and from neighborhood to neighborhood, picking sweets and drinking wine wherever they find it.


Unfortunately, the bonfires have also undergone globalization, and so the sound of the accordeon is less and less common, and people dance the tarantella on music from stereo speakers, which enables them to sing karaoke tunes at the top of their voices.


Although minor aspects of the festival have changed, the culmination of the feast remains the same and consists of waiting until the potatoes, put under the hot ashes left of the bonfire, which is no longer fed an dies gradually, are ready to eat.


Even the second day of the feast has changed. As the result of an outbreak of foot – and mouth disease , which killed the cattle in our region, a ban on the sale of cattle has been in force for twenty years. The animal market was essential for the significance and importance of this March event.


Sales and exchanges of animals attracted breeders and farmers from the valley to this spring venue. It was an favorable occasion to sell the excellent cured meat from Castelluccio and its surroundings, which enjoy a well-deserved reputation for delicacy and genuineness.


Now that the animals for sale are no longer present, the stalls display their goods in an almost surreal atmosphere, This is not only caused by the absence of bellowing, bleating and braying animals, but also by the ban on acoustic advertising. And so the shouting of people, crowding together in a manner that brings people in close contact, sometimes even of intimate nature, remains unaltered one of the characteristics of the festival, which, unsurprisingly, had a reputation to give rise to indecent behaviour (fer du tocca cul).


At the end everything is quickly consumed and only traces remain of what was in the warm smoke that rises from the ashes of the bonfires.


This is what is left of the festival dedicated to Saint Joseph.. no more than a memory.


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