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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Look at Some Popular Sicilian Festivals

Termini Imerese, Belvedere with view to Monte ...Image via Wikipedia

By James Iozia

Sicilian festivals are important to the people of Sicily. While many revolve around religious holidays, carnivals are considered secular events. They are traditionally held in the week preceding the beginning of Lent. Originally the festivals were intended to use up fresh food, since Lent is a time of prayer and fasting.
Some of the more famous carnivals are held in the communes of Sciacca, Acireale and Termini Imerese. Those participating in these Sicilian festivals typically wear masks. While the masks worn in Italian carnivals are usually like those of Pulcinella or Brighella, traditional Sicilian masks are more characteristic of Jardinara or Varca, especially in the province of Palermo.

The people of Sicily are said to be both religious and superstitious. Carnivals are full of symbolic gestures, such as the burning of the puppets, which symbolizes the burning of the bad part of the soul. The floats in the parades are sometimes representative of political groups from Sicily's past. But, even for a person that is not familiar with the symbolism, these parades are a joy to witness. In some areas, the parades last for two or three days. For example, Sciacca's carnival begins on Saturday and ends on Tuesday.
The people of Sicily are close-knit families. Children are very important to the parents and generally accompany them to all social events. The children love the parades and the floats are designed to be entertaining and delightful to young and old, alike. Many Sicilian festivals date back to ancient times. The origins of the carnival date back to 1600.
In addition to the carnivals, there are celebrations of major religious holidays and some that celebrate religion itself. For example, the Byzantine Epiphany Celebrations are held in January on an annual basis. This is a religious event, but many non-religious people enjoy the ceremony. Each town has a patron saint and a celebration is held in that saint's honor every year. In Acireale, the celebration is held in January in honor of Saint Sebastian. In Catania, the Feast of Saint Agatha is held in February.
Tourists, as well as the people of Sicily, enjoy the Almond Blossom Festival, which is also in February. It's a traditional folk festival held in the Valley of the Temples, which boasts parades, shows, crafts and other exhibits. St Joseph's Day is in March and celebrations occur throughout Sicily on that day. Special pastries, breads and dinners are prepared in his honor.
An international film festival is held in Taormina every year, usually in early July. An Arab style horse race is held in Noto each June. Every month of the year, there are Sicilian festivals to enjoy. For tourists, there is really no end of things to do and see in Sicily.
James has loved Sicily for as far back as he can remember and he returns to this island paradise every chance he gets. His grandparents came to America from this beautiful land in the early 1900's, bringing with them all the tradition and passion that is Sicily. From the beautiful beaches and Roman architecture, to the heavenly food and romantic charm, he hopes you will come to love Sicily as much as he does. Stop by for a visit at

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