Wednesday, 29 October 2014

L'Aneme de le Morte, Serramonacesca


Halloween, a festival that grew up in tandem honouring the dead and celebrating the saints and the martyrs is a classic example not only of the merging of Christian and Pagan rituals, but also basic agricultural need and the seeping in of superstitious beliefs.  It's the time of year when summer comes to an end and all around is cold, dark, brown and dead.  The nights are getting longer, there’s a chill in the air, winter is looming and everything is lying dormant.  

The winter woods of Serramonacesca

Winter is traditionally a season of hardship and hunger with more people perishing at this time than any other, making it the perfect recipe for superstitious beliefs that evil forces have been let loose on the earth to arise.  According to the Pagans, this is the time when the veil between our world and the spirit realm has become thin, the perfect time to reconnect with our ancestors and to honour those who have died.  

It comes as no surprise that in Abruzzo, a land full of legends, beliefs, fables and stories, this curious interaction between Christianity and Paganism, nature and superstition, is still strong and surviving.  Abruzzo is also a land where harsh winters can whip through the mountains and the old ways of living still guide daily life.  Many still rely on their warmth and food over the winter in much the same way as they have done for generations.  


None more so at this time of year than in Serramonacesca where the festival of L'Aneme de le Morte (the Souls of the Dead) is one of the most important festivals of the year for the villagers, attracting visitors from all over Italy and beyond.

L’Aneme de le Morte, aims to be a humble contribution to the rediscovery of the cultural roots of the village as a means of safeguarding the tradition for the new generations.  I have been bowled over time and again by the strength of feeling amongst the villagers (young and old alike) that this festival should simply not become a faded memory overwhelmed by today’s more popular Halloween pranks and parties.  And, my goodness, it is certainly succeeding!  

An impromptu knees-up by the pizze frette girls!

Over the two days of the festival, the historic centre of the village is taken over by the festival with the narrow alley ways and streets being lit by the old flaming torches.  

The alleyways of Serra lit by torches

The vaulted cellars of the old houses, complete with open fires, low ceilings and meat hooks, become cosy corners for tastings of mulled wine, speciality beers, cooked meats and traditional sweets. 

 The little piazza have warming bonfires with chestnuts roasting over, there’s street theatre, street food, folk music and a “battle of the bands” amongst the traditional Abruzzesi musicians.  

The pumpkin carving competition has to be seen to be believed with some of the most elaborate pumpkins I have ever seen.  It's a great two days, and well worth the visit.  


Friday 31 October

19.00: Opening of the Festival 
21.00: The Cungreghe of the canture:  the performance of invited groups of Abruzzo music, singing and dancing around the festa and around the fire, including the Zampogne (bagpipes) of Abruzo
22.30: “Du botte... la gare”:  play-off for the best accordionist of the festa with a ham as the first prize! 

Saturday 1 November 

14.00: “Lu Cane Pastore”:   meeting of the Abruzzo shepherds and their dogs
15.00: “Pe le ruve a sentì le fattarelle”:  street artists, story tellers and entertainment for the little ones (and big ones) with traditions, fairy tales, legends and witchcraft through the streets of the historic centre of the village 
17.30: “La checocce chiò belle”:   competition for the most beautiful pumpkin. Five judges will give a score between 6 and 10 the best carved “pumpkin of the dead" (always lit with a candle inside). 
19.00: Opening of the Festival
22.00: Taraf de Gadjo Tzigana, klezmer, gypsy jazz

The festival has been entered for the best event 2014 with Italive - you can place your vote at the bottom of the page:

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