The traditions, the uses and rituals

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"a prucissiňni"
"i sepuccri"
"a Marňnna Nunziata"

"'a Marňnna addororŕta"

"u Cristu a colonna
"i sparacňgni"
"a cullůra"

'a fillčtta

THE ANNUNCIATED FEAST  THE SEPULCHERS  THE HOLY FRIDAY  TYPICAL DISHES  TYPICAL SWEETS


The traditions, the uses and rituals


Many, some very old, the traditions, the uses, the rituals that the brontese people  hand down from generation to generation; tied to the farming small world, to the seasons following one another, to the hard work on the fields or to religious recurrence.

For centuries the life of our small city has gone on to the rhythm of seasonal cycles, with keeping in mind in every period of the year, the correspondent phases of rural work: these were dictating the time's rhythm and through these the days, the seasons, the weather assumed  a particular significance.


by Nicola Lupo


Little dictionary brontese of N. Lupo (only in brontese)

The so called "industrial era" has not altogether broken yet the ancient seasonal rhythm, to put in its place the mathematic clock time but many  traditions have gradually lost their original meaning.

At the end of the farming epoch and the prevailing of technological society many habits, some festivities or particular customs rest nowadays only in the memory of our elders; others, as the years go by and in our present frenetic life, are gradually disappearing, substituted by modern rituals.

The majority of those that arrived to us, regard principally the Church holidays, maybe just for the character profoundly religious of the people of Bronte (Christmas, the rituals of the Holy Week, the pretty small altars prepared in the small streets of Bronte during the Corpus Domini, the Ascension Day, the Annunciation Feast).

Of some our ancient tradition we want, in these pages, remember them and try to present some aspects.
 

The "Virginelli"

The traditional feast to the "virginelli" is very old and is tied to the hospitality and to the profound religiosity of our people.

The 19th of March, holiday of San Giuseppe, many families, even nowadays, prepare the banquet to the "virginelli" (originally poor boys and girls of town, now only relations and friends children of the neighborhood).

The number of the invited boys varies depending on the votive offering expressed by the host or the economic possibilities of the same.
Typical traditional banquet foods are a first course of  pasta with chickpeas and a second of  fried salt cod and fennel salad.

At the end are given oranges and some bread to take home (a  particular small loaf of bread, marked on top with a cross). Everything is blessed , beforehand, by a priest in front of a small altar prepared in the house for the occasion, and then is distributed  to the guests and, in part, to relatives and neighbors who helped to prepare the feast.

The gesture of the bread gift, a sacred food, has for this people an important protective function of solidarity,  reciprocal affectivity and one of the many ways to release themselves from vows.

 

Thursday "Laddaroru"

Typical carnival tradition nowadays almost completely disappeared.

The Thursday  before Carnival (Thursday grass), boys, generally poor boys, dressed in rags and  blackened in the face with charcoal, with a spit in their hands used to go on the town streets, knocking to every door, followed by a crowd of other shouting boys.

The idea was to beg for something to eat given to them sticking pieces of meat,  lard, cheese, bread and other food on the spit.

 

Since the first years of ‘900, at the Corpus Domini eve, the priests used to go in procession, holding in their hands a broom with a cane’s handle.
This ancient custom, nowadays completely gone and forgotten, meant that the priests were humbly prepared to sweep the streets where the day after the Eucharistic Host had to pass.


The All Souls’ Day

Even in Bronte gifts to the children are given at Christmas or at Epiphany, but, by an ancient tradition, common to other Sicilian country towns, the night of the 1st of November, the children find gifts inside a shoe, that they had put in front of their door and that the dead, during the night, shall fill with gifts or charcoal.

Nougat, fruit pickles, dry figs, walnuts, sweets and some toys were the traditional gifts, but also some pieces of charcoal for bad kids”, nearly to invite them to become better children.

A recurrence (or festivity) from a profound and strongly felt humanity, nearly a spiritual bond between the living and the dead who, from the afterlife, in this day remember affectionately the children.

A moment of authentic joy for them in the univer­sally felt sadness of this commemoration.

Differently from the old, broom riding hag, or the red, pot-bellied father Christmas and his reindeers (of clearly imported fashion) our recurrent All Souls Day retains a better feeling of poetry and humanity.


I tipici dolci della Festa dei Morti ("crozzi 'i motti")

 

The "vampi" of Ascension

The evening of the Christ Ascension to heaven Feast, a very festive tradition, rather an ancient ritual, religious and profane, gathers yet in the cross roads of Bronte the families living nearby.
During the day the boys had picked as much wood as possible and anything old in the houses that could be burned (tables, chairs, benches).

Every thing is carefully  piled up in the center of the street and everybody now waits anxiously the moment in which the fire shall be lighted.Between the boys of the near quarters it becomes nearly a context, a competition among who shall be able to  raise the highest pile and the longer lasting flames.

Very high flames, during the evening, raise up to accompany the Ascension of Christ to heaven, while all around, seated in semicircle on the chair brought from home, the elders say the Rosary, raises a festive  traditional lullaby that tells the miracle of Ascension.

"S’indi cchianaiu in cielu
ccu ttutti li so’ angili
ccu San Micheli Accangilu
e l’Angilu Gabričl….

"He raised up to the sky
with all his angels
with saint Michael archangel
and the angel Gabriel….

The feast continues until  midnight, among prayers and chants, until there is wood to burn. The boys, with their parents apprehension, show off jumping high across the flames. Maybe, in the far past, this was the first demonstration of courage!

Once, at the end, "un parittuni" (a large shovel) of embers, blessed and nearly sacred, used to be brought home and placed in the "conca" (brazier) to warm  the  domestic ambient.

Translated by Sam Di Bella

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