Val di Kam - Sulle tracce del re Sicano Kokalos

Festivals and Sagre

Feast of Epiphany

(6th of January)

It is now considered as an appointment not be missed not only for the Santangelesi – the people of Sant’Angelo Muxaro – but also for all those who love to go about to village feasts and typical Sicilian manifestations.

On this day the world of sheep-farming and rural life in general is re-animated and the humble crafts are again carried out in the hands of expert shepherds and peasants of this bygone world, to bring to life ancient and sharp savours.

You will be woken up by the sound of bells tied to the sheep’s necks. The sheep wander for the streets of the town while in the town square ricotta cheese is being prepared as it was once done in the past: on three slabs of stone an enormous pot is put to boil on a fire lit between the stones and shepherds continually stir the contents. The town square is abundant in vapours, aromas and scents and when the ricotta cheese is ready, it is given out on homebred bread-slices to the visitors.

In the meantime adorned horses in parade enter the town. This scene is spectacular and many people look forward to this memorable parade the whole year.

In the early afternoon two pastoral characters, Nardu and Riberriu, dressed up in traditional shepherd clothes, take their donkeys and flocks of sheep about the town and start to perform a comical farce: a continual succession of insults, brawls, skirmishes, grotesque scenes all under the irritated nose of their master U Camperi.

After going about for the whole town they return to the town square and there, after finishing their daily occupations, prepare for the night. An angel of God wakes them up and announces the birth of baby Jesus in a humble hut. Later, there is still another performance, on stage, representing Herod, who after receiving the three Magi that reach his court following the comet prepares the death of baby Jesus. The play ends with his being doomed to the fires of hell.

The evening concludes with a promenade round the stalls, tasting typical products or grilled meat, and a musical show.

Feast of Saint Joseph

The feast of Saint Joseph takes place on the 19th of March. It is also known as the feast of the cannistri which are particular wooden constructions decorated with flowers and simple country-life gifts such as bread, pasta, fruit.

The day of the feast, people who have made a oath, or have asked the Saint for a grace, invite mmitati – guests – to their home, chosen among people who are in need, and treat them to a bountiful lunch: pasta prepared in miscellaneous ways and seasoned with different kinds of sauces; omelettes seasoned in manifold ways; all sorts of cakes and among these the typical pignolata. At the end of the lunch the families donate presents to their guests: pasta, coffee, flour, eggs, fruit, cakes and all the remains of the lunch of the innumerable dishes that were not consumed.

The same day three families, the same that prepared the cannistri, offer to three people, a man, a woman and a child, lunch that will be had in the town square, piazza Umberto I, on a stand and in front of all the populace. At the end of the lunch the statue of the saint is taken in procession through the streets of the town. During the procession people give gifts in money which is broached to the statue’s robes at the cry of “Viva il Patriarca San Giuseppe” – Long live the Patriarch Saint Joseph.

Good Friday

The festivity of Good Friday traces its roots back to a faraway but always respected tradition. In particular the ‘encounter’ in Piazza Umberto I of the statues of Our Lady of Sorrows and Jesus Christ the Nazarene bearing the Holy Cross which represents a suggestive and touching moment and to which the whole population participates. At three o’clock in the afternoon the devoted gather at the Chiesa Madre in adoration of the Holy Cross, then in procession the devoted divide into two groups: the first in the following of the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and the second of the statue of Jesus the Nazarene. Each statue is shoulder carried by a group of six persons. At the centre of the procession, young girls dressed in white, the Virgineddi – Virgins – with baskets full of petals to strew where the statues pass, carry the symbols of the Passion of Christ: the nails, the martyr’s crown and the Holy Shroud. Taking two different routes, they both reach the Piazza at the same time and the bearers kneel down in order to make the statues touch, as though they would kiss, Mother and Son.

After the encounter, from the square, the procession proceeds into Via Libertà and on to the Calvary where, accompanied by religious songs and prayers the scene of the Crucifixion is represented with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows at the foot of the Holy Cross in witness of the event. From this moment on, the people remain in adoration till late evening. In all the roads of the passing of the procession the balconies are adorned with the best sheets and bedspreads of the household.

The last Good Friday procession is dedicated to Christ dead and deposed from the Cross. The simulacrum of the Christ is set into a vara (an exquisite glass carriage, representing a coffin, decorated on the outside with lights and interwoven palms and inside with angels and embroidered cushions). The lighted glass carriage is shoulder borne by hooded men followed by the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows.

The evening procession is a caravan of lights and candles; it begins at 9 pm starting from the Calvary and proceeds towards the Chiesa Madre – Mother Church – accompanied by a musical band playing funereal music and the men, at certain precise stops, sing the lamenti – lamentations – re-evoking the dramatic Passion of Christ, a choral chant rich in Greek and Moorish elements that represent the synthesis of the various cultures that have passed one by the other.

The procession returns to where it started from in the early afternoon, that is the Chiesa Madre, where the vara is left amidst prayers, meditation and songs of the devoted in wake.

The Easter Arches of San Biagio Platani

For those who love to go in search of traditions, folk festivals, religious feasts, at San Biagio Platani there is a feast that is unique worldwide. This website, the photos, brochures, TV documentaries can never give a complete representation of what, in this town of inland Sicily, the town people manage to do in Eastertide.

Coming from Agrigento, going past Sant’Angelo Muxaro, go down to the River Platani and then, crossing the river, continue for four kilometres to San Biagio Platani.

The town is cut into two by the main street; alongside there are streets, alleys, cul-de-sacs and so on. It is this main street and all its turnings that become the protagonists of one of the most important popular and religious festivals of all Sicily: The Easter Arches.

The tradition of the Easter Arches dates back to the second half of the 17th century when the town was founded.

The event represents the resurrection and the encounter between Christ and the Holy Virgin.

Facing each other in front of the Mother Church, the Church of the Holy Mary, there are two central arches with respective scenarios that develop in both directions of the main street of the town. The two scenarios belong to two brotherhoods, the Madunnara (relating to the Holy Virgin) and the Signurara (relating to the resurrected Christ). Both scenarios are adorned in exceptional beauty: rose-windows, columns and belfries made from canes and willow; mosaics and chandeliers made from dates and cereals.

The principle element employed is bread and it is used to create illustrations representing scenes from the Way of the Cross and the Resurrection, trees, fountains, baskets and many more original artefacts.

With the passing of time the feast has given birth to two brotherhoods in competition one with the other: the Madunnara and the Signurara which, through their attachment to the feast and thanks to their precious artisan work have, despite and, at the same time, thanks to the competition, contributed in bringing people from all over Sicily and beyond to San Biagio to admire the fruit of their work undoubtedly of a gracefulness without equal.