Ferie di Agosto 8月の祝日
In ancient Roman times, August became the name for the month after July, in honor of the Emperor Augustus, a word that since then became a title for emperors. Actually, that emperor’s original name was Octavian. Until then, this had been the 6th month in the Roman calendar, and thus called Sextile, followed by the seventh month September.
While August is the month for Japanese people to celebrate in good heart the festival of OBON in memory of their ancestors and their dead relatives and friends, for Italians this is the joyful month for long awaited summer holidays, often as long as the whole month, centered around the day of Ferragosto” (15th of August). A typical end of harvest festival since ancient times, the Roman Emperor Augustus expanded it in “Feriae Augusti” (Augustus’ public holiday), still today an opportunity to bridge the 15th with the closest weekend for a few days of general summer rest in Italy. As a result, starting with Ferragosto most of the industrial factories and businesses in Italy take a week or two of holidays. People leave home and go “in villeggiatura” , which in English means going to stay in the countryside or other towns, at sea or on the hills and mountains, in search of cooling off from the summer heat. During Ferragosto, Italian big cities, like Rome, Milan, and others, look almost empty of local people, and tourists have big time walking like ghosts in the downtowns left all for themselves, devoid of the usual heavy car traffic and pollution; the only trouble being that most of the restaurants are closed..
Town festivals occur this month; one being the “Palio di Siena” in the city of Siena (Tuscany) on the 16th of August, with the horse racing in the main square being the most popular event. Horse riders from each of the city wards fiercely compete riding horses bareback, often ending in dramatic accidents, with riders falling from horses, or horses slipping on the stone pavement amid the crowd of spectators closely lined up along the track.
The ancient festival survived only in the name Ferragosto, because as soon as Christianization took power during the late Roman Empire, it dedicated the same day to the “Assumption of Mary”, the belief that the mother of Jesus ascended to heaven. This was a similar concept to the so-called “apotheosis”, the making into a god that had been practiced since ancient times for rulers and outstanding people after their death, including Augustus and various other Roman emperors. Therefore, on August 15, many Christian Catholic religious events for the Assumption of Mary take place all over Italy.
In recent years, weather worldwide is changing into what they call global warming, with sudden switches from an extreme to another. In the good old days before this late turn of events, weather in Italy was more easily predictable in line with the seasons. Heavy clouds with short heavy rains and thunderstorms used to arrive, very welcome, in the second half of August. They brought refreshment after the long dry heat of summer between June and August. Up until then, wide use of air conditioners still unavailable, the only way for Italians to cool off, beside a nap on a verandah caressed by the breeze or an umbrella at the beach, was to soak their mouths with delicious watermelons and other fruit of the season, always freshly supplied by the local farmers. The simple thought of that condition is now enough to make any Italian lost overseas to dream his own apotheosis..
Of course, here I would add a glass of white wine filled out from a bottle kept cool in a Freezerino bottle holder..