for CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania. Photos by Tess Raser, student for CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.
What a way to start the semester! Last weekend was the Festa di Sant’Agata, Catania’s patron saint. Sant’Agata, or Saint Agatha, was martyred here in 251 AD. In her honor, nearly one million tourists and Catanesi filled the streets for her annual Festa. Our students, Italian Roommates and Language Partners were there to see it, in all its crowded, messy, chaotic glory!
And what a spectacle it was. Thousands of local devotees wore white robes and black caps and helped to cart the Saint’s relics and effigy through the streets on a gilded caravan. Together residents pulled on a thick white rope to lead the Saint throughout Catania for 48 hours.
Other Agata devotees trailed the caravan with burning candles perched on their shoulders. The candles were the size of tree trunks. Their wax drippings left such a sticky residue that sanitation workers were out the next day with blow torches to remove it. Until the wax comes off completely, the sound of tires squeaking against the waxy streets fills the night air.
And the purples, golds, and dazzling silver fireworks on Friday night in the Piazza del Duomo were, as they say down here, folcloristico, which can mean colorful, eccentric, and traditional, all at the same time.