Italians, as befits members of a nation where Roman Catholicism was the state religion until the revision of the Lateran pacts of 1929 (the pacts which established the Vatican City as an independent state) still very much include religious ceremonies in their everyday lives.
In 1984 under law no. 203 of the constitutional court Roman Catholicism was ‘demoted’ in favour of the supreme principle of secularism. This, of course, has little bearing on a country which is Roman Catholic by osmosis if nothing else. This comes out to the fore in the blessings bestowed on all and sundry. Annually, for example, our house (or at least our garden wall) gets blessed by the parish priest or the deacon. (I’m quite sure that this is a prime reason why the wall hasn’t fallen down yet!)
Last week-end another blessing took place – one which has particular importance in this agricultural part of the world – the blessing of the tractors. This took place in Fornoli and a fine parade of the huge-tyred machines lined the high street.
Tractors are, of course, more than any Ferrari Testarossa, an indication of how far economically farmers have progressed in this part of the world. Not too long ago it was oxen that pulled the plough and it was pure manual effort involved in threshing the farro (spelt). Now, it’s all different and the presence of these gigantic mechanical beasts show how comparatively well off farmers are, even in an Italy which is still creeping out of its 2008 economic crisis.
It’s all part of the ‘Giornata Del Ringraziamento’, Thanksgiving Day, or as one would equate in England, the Harvest festival.
This festa was first celebrated in 1951 and recognized by the Church. Its origins, however, date back from long before and refer to the period between the feste of Saint Martin (11th November) and 17th January (the feast of Saint Anthony abbot, patron saint of all those who farm crops and herd animals).
As with all other festivals at this time of year necci (chestnut pancakes) and vin brulé were served up, on this occasion by the Alpini, and stalls sold their multifarious wares. On the squeeze-box our own virtuoso Mila was playing to an invisible crowd of dancers. Perhaps more did join her in Fornoli’s main square but we were off to another chestnut festival so weren’t to know. I do hope she got more feet dancing, however.