Ciao! Italy ジャンバのイタリアコラム
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..
July in Italy means hot summer days, perfect for spending time by the sea. The Mediterranean Sea is not only the safest sea in the world, with less presence of poisonous fish, less occurrence of sea storms, strong currents, waves, etc. It is also a wonderful place in summer for bathing during the summer heat. Being Italy surrounded for the most by the sea, Italians biggest wish in summer is to spend a few days of vacation by the sea. From north to south, and around the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, people on summer vacation do overcrowd the seaside towns, spending the day at the beach and dining “al fresco” in the evening through the latest hours. Then, nothing better for an easier digestion than an ice cream to eat while strolling amid the crowd in the piazza or the trendy streets.
The title here “Abbronzatissima” (very deeply suntanned”) was the catchword of a famous song from the singer Edoardo Vianello in the 60’s, referred to the typical sun tan of the girls of the time as seen on the beaches. The deep suntan made them feel very attractive for the boys in their circle, often being cause for brief but intense summer romances, also called “cotta estiva”. “Prendersi una cotta” means to have a crush on someone. Handsome or not, beach boys working as sea lifeguards usually happen to show the more sun tanned bodies on the beach, and so, they ares typically cause of “cotta estiva” for some girls attending their beach. The year of launch, that song became the hit of the summer, for which the Italians introduced the word “ tormentone dell’estate”, meaning the “torture song of summer”. One could not escape from hearing it wherever one went in public places, especially on the beach, and in every café in town. This song is still very popular, and every Italian knows it.
“A A Abbronzatissima
Sotto i raggi del sole
A due passi dal mare
Abbracciato con te
Sulle labbra tue dolcissime
Un profumo di salsedine
Sentirò per tutto il tempo
Di questa estate d’amor..”
Until the 2nd World War, Italians were shunning the sun from hitting their skin, but after that time, on a trend from the more industrialized countries of North Europe and from the USA especially, to lay on the beach and get suntanned became common practice, especially for young women. The canon of beauty in Italy until then had been for women to keep their skin as pale and milky as possible, which luckily even now is still the beauty ideal here in Japan. In addition, without realizing it, by avoiding sun tanning, women saved it from the danger of skin cancer. In past times, because of their work in the fields for agriculture, only working class people were unable to keep their skin pale. Since the 50’s, the trend for sun exposure has boomed, and especially in summer, women of all ages indulge lying in the outdoors, on the beach or near swimming pools, in order to get duly sun tanned, back and forth, while the danger from sun rays is taken care by using tons of protective creams and oils.
Trends follow one another, and now the younger generations seem proud to show on the beach their bodies, not just suntanned but also marked by tattoos of various sizes. Unfortunately, with tattoos sometimes covering large parts of the body, it is difficult to appreciate the beauty of the skin as it used to be. To each generation its ideal of beauty and its level of torture and taste..
Still, every year the seas surrounding Italy offer unique healing relaxation to everyone. Whether sailing or swimming or just lying on the sand or on the rocks, the song goes on..
“Quando il viso tuo nerissimo
Tornerà di nuovo pallido
Questi giorni in riva al mar
Non potrò dimenticar”
While June in Japan brings the rainy season with “Tsuyu” drizzle, June in Italy brings sunshine. It is warm, but not hot like July and August, and many people start enjoying weekends at seaside or mountains. Summer vacation for schools start during this month, so for most students this is a wonderful and lighthearted time, in anticipation of the longest school holiday in the year, from June to September. Anyway, for students who must get high school diplomas as well as for University students, these are hard days and nights, spent preparing for exams that stretch over weeks between June and July. Studying is always a hard experience for young students, but if bending over books in the cold and rainy winter days is not much fun, studying for exams just at the beginning of summer is hell, especially when the sky is blue and the sea is as refreshing as heaven, with friends calling from the beach..
June is the month for harvesting wheat and other grains, as well as various types of beans that need collection once dry on the plants. With seldom raining, and the color of the countryside green and gold, it is a comfortable month to travel Italy north and south. In June, the sun path is highest on the horizon, and the days around Summer Solstice, on June 21, are the longest in the year. At this time, ancient belief was that the sun and the moon “marry”, so to say, and all the planets and the stars participate in chorus to the lucky event sending on earth their most powerful influence. Traditionally, people always held special night parties for this occasion, spicing them up with magical rituals related to harvest and fertility. For example, Europeans at large used to have gatherings and dances around bonfires since the preceding night, just as at Spring Equinox. It is a time considered auspicious for marrying as opposed to the period since mid-May, which the ancient Romans considered not auspicious.
In the Christian calendar, the center of these practices has shifted to June 24; day dedicated to St. John Baptist, so called because he baptized Jesus in water on the river Jordan in Israel. Having announced redemption from sins through baptism, according to the Christian theology this saint is precursor of Jesus in the mission of salvation of humanity from hell. In view of the theological implications derived by analogy from the fact that at summer solstice, the sun is just starting the descent that will end at Christmas time, when it starts the ascent, Christians believe that he was born this day. In other words, his birth is to Jesus’ birth as a minor event preceding a major one.
According to folklore belief, prodigious events occur the night preceding this day, especially those with predictive implication. In order to catch this chance, people attached to tradition, on the night preceding the 24th use various practices to forecast the future. One of them is to open an egg and leave it all night with some water in a glass cup placed on the ledge of an open window. Dewdrops from the night chill will add up, bringing with them the magic touch of what the ancient pre-Christians called “dewdrops of the gods”. In the morning, they check and try to read the patterns visible in the mix of egg and water, to figure out the kind of omen expressed in there, mainly related to the harvest, whether abundant or not, but also to love and health. Being many types of herbs in full bloom at this time of the year, nowadays people still choose this night to collect them, aware or not of the ancient belief that right at this moment in time in the year herbs better retain their properties thanks to the influence from the celestial bodies. One type of herb for this practice is the Hypericum, a medical herb, also called “Erba di San Giovanni” (St. John Herb”), which in English is actually called “St. John’s Wort”. Origanum, a herb used to flavor recipes, is also collected before the sunrise of the 24th in order to catch its best fragrance.
Giamba Japan will participate to Caferes fair at Tokyo Big Sight on June 13-15. Even though the time does not match exactly summer solstice or St. John day, there is good hope that exhibiting Freezerino bottle holders at that event will be auspicious for the success of this product among our customers. Especially, we will welcome restaurants, bars and hotels, who wish to renew their wine and champagne service, to make it uniquely stylish and charming. We will be waiting..
古代女神マイアの壮大な力は、春という暖かい季節の始まり に次々と展開する自然に対して力を発揮し 、地球上に豊富な花々、果実などの富をもたらしました。
人々は ５月１日や１５日などの特別な日や、その他 来たる夏の小麦の収穫が始まる時期などに祝賀祭を自ら開催しました。
Vegetation in Italy is in full bloom when May starts. In ancient times, people used to mark the beginning of May with various festivals to celebrate the warmer season and the growth of trees and flowers over the landscape.
Various towns through North and Central Italy, as well as other regions of Europe inhabited by Celtic people in ancient times, still re-enact these festivals under a name spelled in Italian as “Calendimaggio” with social gatherings, and traditional folk dances and songs. This word in fact, derives from “Calende di Maggio” where “Calende” was the 1st of the month in ancient Rome, and it hints to the sentence “Cantar Maggio” (“to sing May”). The town of Assisi in the Umbria region boasts the “Calendimaggio di Assisi”, with spectacular rehearsals and competitions of medieval costumes and music. Another traditional practice is for singers to wander through countryside villages and get little gifts in exchange for playing auspicious motifs about the return of the spring season.
They say that the name of this month comes from an ancient goddess called Maia, most sacred in Central Italy, whose name has the same root as the word “Majesty”. Her majestic power oversaw the unfolding of nature during spring, at the start of the warmer seasons, thus bringing abundance of flowers, fruit and wealth on earth.
An ancient Greek goddess, mother of Hermes by Zeus, had the same name Maia, with temples in the South of Italy. Throughout the centuries, the ancient Romans rather mixed the identities of these goddesses. They held festivals for them in special days during May, like the 1st, the 15th, and so on, a period of the year, which opened the doors to the coming summer harvests of wheat, etc. Being the Greek Maia a celestial goddess, the ancient Greeks identified her with one of seven stars making the constellation of the Pleiades. The rise of the Pleiades over the horizon at this time of the year was the auspicious sign that the ancient Mediterranean people anxiously waited for to assure themselves about the cosmic participation of heavens to the triumph of nature on earth. Among the few fragments remained of the wonderful poems from the Greek poet Sappho, there is one that mentions them, while she was awake at night..
The theme of flowers as well as fertility was also the attribute of another goddess called Flora, from which the word “flower” comes. Renaissance artists, famously Botticelli in his painting “La Primavera”, made her image more familiar in modern times.
In the religious practice, the Christians replaced these goddesses with the figure that the Italians usually call “La Madonna”, that is Jesus’ mother. In her attribute as pure from sin, they call her “Maria Immacolata” (in English “The Blessed Virgin Mary). The temples of the ancient goddesses did not survive the destruction of all Pagan temples in the dark centuries during the later period of the Roman Empire. They served the same spot later on for the construction of churches and cathedrals dedicated to Madonna.
Starting in late medieval times, and more and more after Reinassance, the Catholic Church dedicated the month of May to Madonna, and called it “Mese Mariano” (“Mary’s Month”), with roses as special flowers to her devotion. The Catholic Church wanted thus to give its own direction to the tradition of spring festivals that people of the time were practicing in a secular spirit if not still as meant in the old Pagan times. Throughout the whole month of May, church attendants fill the churches dedicated to Madonna with more than usual abundance of flowers, from fragrant roses to pure white lilies, and perform special singing rituals, just as the ancient people did for their goddesses.
Also for the secular part of society the 1st of May is a special day, in Italy and elsewhere, because in modern times the socialist movements designated it as the “Festa dei Lavoratori” (“May Day” in English, that is the “Workers’ Festival”).
With a bit of good luck, as this year when the 1st of May occurs on a Tuesday, Italian workers happily take an extra day or two off from work in order to bridge a week-end longer than usual. In parallel with the Japanese “Golden Week”, la Festa dei Lavoratori this year will allow Italians almost a week of good time under the same sun, enjoying vacation with family and friends.
The 1st of April is known as the day of “Pesce d’Aprile”, the Italian version of “ Fools Day”. It is a day that especially for children gives the chance for playful jokes, attempting to embarrass the victims with easy to believe lies. The word “pesce” (“fish”) traces the origin of this tradition from the late medieval times, when the beginning of the new year was switched from Spring Equinox to Winter Solstice. Until then, Christians had used to celebrate New Year eating fish, this being one of the earliest symbols for Christ. Conservative people who kept the old ways ended up becoming victims of jokes. They were accused of foolishness for not realizing that times had changed. Many jokes consisted in stealthily applying the image of a fish onto their backs. And this is what children are still today been taught to do on the 1st of April using pieces of paper, and then shouting “Pesce d’Aprile!” to the victim. When among friends someone on this day makes a startling announcement, it may be wise to take it with skepticism and deny it because it may be just a Fool’s Day joke. Hoaxes and pranks are so common that they end up in the news when the victims are famous people.
By chance, this year “Pasqua” (the Christian “Easter”) in Italy occurs on the 1st of April, followed by “Pasquetta” (“Easter Monday”in English) the next day. Italians mostly go to church and try to make bella figura dressing nicely. They invite guests for lunch, which is based on pasta typically followed by lamb meat or else, and then boiled eggs and other delicious dessert. They exchange Good Easter wishes “Auguri Pasquali”, as well as “Colombe Pasquali”, a pastry shaped as open wing pigeons, and eggs made of chocolate, sometimes of huge proportions and beautifully arranged in a colourful packaging. People are anxious to open them, breaking the chocolate casing, because they expect presents to be hidden inside, mostly meant for children. “Pasquetta” is for Italians similar to what Hanami is for Japanese people. It is the day for picnics in parks, countryside, on mountains and at sea, everybody hopeful for a sunny day. It is a day when people go out in order to relax surrounded by nature at its best, when trees and grass are green, flowers are blooming, and birds fly singing in the blue sky. A great opportunity for Freezerino bottle holders to protect and keep drinks at best tasting temperature with any type of bottles, be it for champagne or wine, or for soft drinks.