Italian Festivals and Traditions

 

St. Antonio’ s day

 

On St.Antonio’s day, January 17th , it is said  “one hour more”: as a matter of fact the day becomes longer (about 45 minutes). In the past on St. Antonio’s day  (the saint protector of animals) the priests went from stable to stable to bless the animals.

On the walls of the stables people used to put images of the Saint among the animals; there was always a big pink pig, symbol of the physical temptations which the Saint was subjected to during his life: this was the cause of his retreat in the Thebaid desert.

On this day people used to eat “gnocchi” and the women stopped spinning because this could symbolise the spinning of St.Antonio’s beard. Another custom was to prepare a cake and have it eaten by people and ill animals.

As an old saying goes one day a man who was having lunch in front of the Saint said the well known proverb: “St. Antonio with the white beard, I’m going to eat “gnocchi” you aren’t”. The Saint felt hurt and turned the man’s plate over. It was impossible for the man to eat his “gnocchi” too.

On St. Antonio’s day animals didn’t work, and people didn’t stay in the stables at night.  They said that animals spoke after midnight and nobody could listen to their speeches.

This Saint was also the patron of blacksmiths, horseshoers and he had powerful influence: he could make people find lost objects or cure the sacred fire, a bad illness also called St. Antonio’s fire.