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The Twenty-first of August


The following day, August 21st, the weather was a little cloudy. We know that there will be some rain at least part of the time during the five days of the holiday. No one worries too much about it; we know it is going to pass. Even the rain has become a tradition. The sky darkens, the clouds roll in and chase away the clear blue sky and make it completely gray.

From the tops of the mountains, flashes of lightning flare in the dark sky. The deep rumble of thunder follows. After that, the wind starts to blow, with strong gusts of wind and giant drops of rains, which signals the start of a nice thunderstorm, typical for a village in the mountains.

I run home, followed by my friends.  The thunderstorm does not last for long; the dark clouds pass and the clear sky is back. The downpour has cleared and cooled the humid and muggy air and has cleaned up the streets.

Today there is a band playing the entire day. They will play until late tonight. The people of the village come to the square all dressed up.  The last two days it seems that all the activity is taking place at an accelerated pace.

The comings and goings of people intensifies, the stalls are erected in any and every available space. Those who have to leave in a few days try to quickly complete their shopping. It is as if we do not even want to lose a tiny moment of this important and emotional event that we have staged here for hundreds of years. I notice that a number of young people that follow these ancient rituals. I approach one of them and I ask if they all came together on a bus. “No ma’am” he kindly replies “we walked here from ….” and he names a very distant place. “And how can you walk for such a long distance?” I ask. They started the journey a few weeks earlier, visiting other Sanctuaries and sleeping in churches or in other rooms offered by the authorities of the other villages. The day after, they would leave at dawn for another festival and make another stop. The Festa di Canneto was the last of festivals in the Valley. In the meantime, another group of young people arrived. I spoke with them and they said that they were continuing a tradition that was passed down to them from their fathers. Only after the holiday was completely finished, would they take the bus back, which had been following them transporting the older faithful. The same older people that many years before had come walking as they are doing today. Perhaps it is faith, perhaps is the sense of tradition, or the sense of adventure; you can call it whatever you want, but they come today and will re-enact this walk to celebrate something good and beautiful. And why not? They are reaffirming the faith of their ancestors.

For many years, we have been saying with apprehension that after our generation, the Festa del Canneto will not survive. Talking to these young people I have faith for the future.  Numerous processions are ready to start their journey, followed by the faithful. Songs and hymns resonate in the valley and it seems that our green forest joins them in their songs. The hawkers that are spread across the field were told to close down

everything while the long procession is passing through. Prato di Mezzo is a sea of people and it does not seem big enough to contain them all. After we go around the field , we gather in the churchyard for the blessing, When it is over

we go back the bus that is waiting to take us back to the village.



Delia Socci Skidmore