Ciao! Italy 社長のイタリアコラム
March is the month when spring season starts. “Aprite le finestre al nuovo sole! E’ primavera! Festa dell’amor!” are the words of a famous Italian song of the ‘50s, which means, “Open your windows to the new sun! It is spring! Feast of love!”. Italians know the old saying “A San Benedetto le rondini sul tetto”, that is “On the day of St. Benedict, swallows are back on the roofs of houses”. In other words, with the warming up of the season in the days around spring equinox (21st March), this kind of bird is back again from Africa to Europe making nests on the roofs of houses. Flocks of swallows flying and twittering through blue skies is the main sign of spring for Italian people.
Weather in Italy during March is quite unpredictable, swinging fast with the wind between sunshine and rain. This is the reason for the old saying “Marzo pazzerello, esce il sole e prendi l’ombrello”, which means, “Crazy March, the sun comes out and you take the umbrella”.
March 8th is “Festa delle Donne” (“Women’s Day”), celebrating women’s contribution to humankind in their roles for family, at work, and in all other aspects of life. Italians show it with flower presents to women in their circles, specifically bunches of yellow mimosa flowers. In some cities, activists organize mass rallies in main streets, with slogans and chants in support of women liberation from their past social customs submissive to men.
March 19th is “Giorno di San Giuseppe” (“Day of St. Joseph”), when “bonfire night” takes place all over Italy’s countryside towns, with people having fun in circle around bonfires. As with many Christian traditions, this too preserves a previous non-Christian practice more connected to the rhythms of life through the seasons. In this case, the idea for bonfire is to get rid of the cold winter and to welcome spring with fun, food and dances around warm bonfires.
March 25th is “Domenica delle Palme” (“Palm Sunday”), when people go to church and get “palms” blessed by the priest. “Palms” are little branches with leaves of either palm tree or olive tree, which churchgoers exchange one another and, to ward off evil, keep at home on walls or above doors, or even on the roofs. It is a tradition inspired by a story in the Christian Gospels, when Jesus and his followers went to Jerusalem, Jesus riding on a donkey and his followers brandishing palm branches and hailing him as the Messiah expected by the Jews.
February for Italians is the month when Carnival festivals occur. They take place in various Italian cities during the sixth week before Easter. Most famous is the Carnival of Venice, with people wearing spectacular masks mostly originated in the 17th century. In many towns, crowds of people attend special events in the main streets to watch allegorical installations mounted on trucks, which take aim and make fun toward public figures and topics.
It is a time for excesses in food and street follies before the 40 days of special dietary restriction in the Christian calendar, when religious precept forbids eating meat until Thursday before Easter Sunday. The word “Carnevale” derives in fact from the Latin “Carnem Levare”, which means, “take away meat”. Children enjoy Carnival not only for wearing masks but also for the joy of throwing handfuls of little shreds of paper called “Coriandoli” all over the place, while trying to shower them on the heads of their friends and really everybody around. That is where the famous saying “A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale” comes from, which means “during Carnival anything goes” in relation to jokes.
This year, the week will open with Martedi Grasso (“Fat Tuesday”) on February 8th, and close with Giovedi Grasso (“Fat Thursday”) on February 13th, both days to be spent eating a lot. The following day will be the “Giorno delle Ceneri”, in English “Ash Wednesday”. That day, priests in Italian churches widely practice a ritual by spraying ashes on people’s heads in a sign of contrition and penitence, beginning the period of abstinence from meat, in preparation for Easter celebration.
By chance, that same day will be Valentine’s Day. The Italian lovers who follow the Christian tradition will have to opt for fish instead of meat during their romantic dinner. Carnival and Valentine’s Day are both occurrences that Christianity has adapted to its calendar, taking them from previous Pagan traditions. Carnival derives from the ancient Roman festivity of “Saturnalia”, a temporary re-enactment of the Mythical Golden Age under the ancient God Saturn, a time of supposed peace and happiness among all humans on earth. In memory of it, no war could be declared, slaves and masters ate at the same table, executions were postponed, and it was a time for giving presents. Valentine’s Day took hold from an ancient Roman tradition more or less in the same day, called “Lupercalia” which celebrated rituals of fertility and love. Valentine’s Day is nowadays a great day for lovers and flowers, and a feast for chocolate eaters. In future, it will be the same, with flowers and chocolates also presented in attractive Mini Freezerino bottle pouchettes..
A New Year begins, and Italians stay up through the night of 31 December for the New Year’s Eve (“Veglione di Capodanno”) with late night dinners and dances. At exactly midnight, people partying stand up to cheer the Happy New Year (“ Buon Anno!”), hugging each other, sharing kisses on the cheek, and filling their glasses with Champagne and “Spumante” poured out of bottles held in Freezerino bottle-holders for best taste and best jolly good luck. At the same time, fireworks start cracking all over through the outdoors, while many people sticking with an old tradition throw un-needed old stuff out of the windows down in the streets almost oblivious of the harm to passersby. The 1st day of January follows through with lunching and partying.
Next tradition is “La Festa della Befana”, the Italian equivalent of the Nordic Santa Klaus. Dedicated to little children, it takes place the night before the 6th. On the evening of the the 5th, parents hang empty stockings on the fireplace, telling children that through the night the Befana will fill them with surprise presents. Children who behaved well through the year would get candies and nice presents, while children who behaved badly would just get a lump of black coal. Children asking for nice presents on the promise of good behavior through the New Year write letters addressed to the Befana. All excited for the discovery that they will find in the morning, children go to bed soon in order to get up early and run to the fireplace. The Befana has the look of an old skinny witch. Dark dressed, she carries a basket on her shoulders, and rides a long broom across the sky. Circling over the roofs under the moonlight, she enters each house through the chimney and unloads her gifts for children, good and bad. In modern times, the day of the Befana is mostly a commercial opportunity, with colorful fairs where parents bring children and buy them candies, toys, etc..
Italians know this song very well: “La befana vien di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte. ..”
新しい年が始まりました。イタリア人は12月31日の大晦日（イタリア語で“Veglione di Capodanno”）の夜は遅いディナーとダンスを楽しみながら１月１日の鐘が鳴るまで起きています。
ちょうど０時になると、人々は立ち上がり、“ Buon Anno!（明けましておめでとう！）”と歓声を上げ、お互いに抱きしめ合い、頬にキスをし合います。
次にくるイタリアの伝統は“La Festa della Befana（ベファーナのお祭）”、北欧のサンタクロースにあたるものです。
“La befana vien di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte. .
December comes, and the sun’s path in the sky of the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth gets down to the lowest level at Solstice on the 21st, to rise again each day higher for a new yearly cycle in the solar calender. From ancient times, this event has inspired human kind using the solar calender in that part of the world, to join the celestial event with special festivities.
In the West, the Christian Christmas dedicated to the birth of Jesus over the 25th replaced earlier traditions of rejoicing with the God-like personifications of the sun in this time cycle event, exactly through these same days.
In Italy, the typical Christmas social activities consist of family gatherings, exchange of presents with friends, long dining, social games through the night, like playing cards, bingo, etc., all with little money prices. On this occasion, tables fill with special food delicacies, depending on the traditions of each region and town.
Beside the main course, a typical Christmas dessert originated in the North of Italy is the famous Panettone, or its variations Pandoro, etc. Panettone consists of soft bread out of the oven with ingredients like eggs, milk, vanilla, raisins, etc., and it come out in big size that people serve in slices.
Less known but very popular in some regions in the South of Italy are Cartellate, Pettole, and Zeppole. They consist of little pastries, deep-fried in olive oil. Cartellate come out light brown, then dipped in hot honey and served quite crisp in their shapes of leafed circles. Pettole have similar color but ball shaped and soft, also dipped in honey. Zeppole come out smaller, as very light brown little soft dough rings and sticks, spread with sugar and cinnamon. Variants exist in shape, ingredients and flavor.
On meeting for this occasion, the Italian way of exchanging each other the “Happy Christmas” good wishes is by saying “Buon Natale!”..
San Martino. On the 10th of November, which is the day dedicated to St. Martin in the Christian calendar, it is a tradition in Italy to start opening wine casks in order to taste new wines (“Vino Novello”).
Many town festivals are held in the countryside during Autumn in Italy and other European towns.The 10th of November festival is dedicated to San Martino, with Vino Novello first tasting events, offered freely at the canteens often with the typical Autumn fruit, roasted “Castagne” (KURI), and other specialities of the season. Therefore, most popular is the old saying “A San Martino ogni mosto diventa vino”, which means “At St. Martin’s day every must becomes wine”.
This period in early November used to be called “Estate di San Martino” (St. Martin’s Summer) in view of the fact that often it shows mild weather with sunny days after the first autumnal cold days of October. In Uk they used to call it “Indian Summer”. Christians introduced this name from the life of St. Martin who, being a generous soldier during the Roman Empire cut in half his mantel, and then again and again, to divide it with poor beggars in the streets, after which the clouds vanished giving way to warm sunshine (a miracle..). In earlier times, these days were used for signing new agrarian rental contracts and therefore moving (HIKKOSHI).
In ancient times, the 1st day of November used to be dedicated to “All The Gods” (“Pantheon” in ancient Greek language), which the Christians changed into “All Saints Day”.The 2nd of November, Christians dedicate it to the Dead, and many people visit the cemeteries to pay homage to their dead dears, clean tombs. bring flowers (mostly Chrysanthemum flowers), etc.. The Chinese have a similar day in Spring, called “Sweeping Tombs Day”.. What about Japan?
そのため、とても有名なのは古いことわざで“A San Martino ogni mosto diventa vino”、というもがあり、その意味は「聖マルティノの日にすべてのマスト（ワインになる前のブドウ果汁）はワインになる」です。
11月の初めは、10月に秋の初めの寒い日々の後にやってくる晴れた穏やかな日が多いということから、“Estate di San Martino”（聖マルティノの夏）と呼ばれていたものでした。