In Italy, there is always a feast day to celebrate!! They make the most of every possible reason for a holiday! Many of their holidays revolve around a Church holy day, or the feast day of one of their favorite saints. For instance, Milan celebrates the feast day of San Ambrogio, their patron saint, by taking the day off. Other parts of Italy celebrate their special saint’s day with similar observances.
Many of these feast days are associated with special traditions which have been passed on through the generations. They usually involve invoking some special blessing from that special “saint-of-the-day”.
One such feast day celebration is that of San Lorenzo. His special feast day, August 10th, coincides with the Perseid meteor shower which occurs every year around this date. This meteor shower fills the heavens with so many shooting stars and, in keeping with the tradition of the feast, wishes are made to San Lorenzo with every shooting star that is seen!
Legend has it that the shooting stars are the tears that San Lorenzo shed when he was being martyred so many years ago. Even though the original situation was a bit sad, the Italians have managed to put a positive spin on this tragedy. Many towns in Italy celebrate this holiday with parties, dances, and lots of hoopla in the piazzas! Of course, since it occurs during August when most of Italy is on holiday, the Italians are all ready to party and have fun!
Another summertime feast day with a wonderful tradition attached to it is the feast day of St. John the Baptist on June 24th. This tradition is followed mostly in Umbria, but many other parts of Italy celebrate it as well. At sunset of the night before, 100 plants, herbs, and flowers are collected and placed in a bowl along with some water. The bowl is left outside all night, thus insuring that the first dew will enter the water. This dew is believed to be holy water from Heaven.
The next day, June 24th, people will use this holy water to wash their faces and bathe their newborn babies. The scented water will protect them all year with the blessings of St. John the Baptist.
These small traditions are so special because they are simple blessings – everyone can enjoy them, no matter what their social status. Perhaps I am still in time to make a wish upon a star 🙂
Stella, mia bella stella, desidero che….