August is a synonymous of holidays in Italy. Small and large companies close down, factories stop production and Italians pack their suitcases and leave for a long-awaited holiday with their whole families. No one is blaming or apologizing for the fact that even the simplest administrative matters cannot be dealt with for a whole month and that specialty stores run out of goods on the shelves. There is a general permission to rest, so even those who work do it at a very slow speed. The phenomenon of a month's downtime at work has its origins in history, it can also be explained by innate slack, i.e. the Italian dolce far niente - sweet doing nothing. August is a time to recharge your batteries with family and friends, a time of sunshine, parties, smiles and great food, usually outdoors.
Italians are in love with their own country and culture, so they usually do not venture too far on vacation. It's hard to blame them. Sardinia is a very popular holiday destination.
It was then that the emperor Octavian Augustus, whose name in Italian is the eighth month of the year (agosto), decreed that August would be the month of celebration of the festival at the end of the harvest. The ancients had already celebrated a similar holiday - August was the month of the end of the harvest, which was celebrated in September. However, Emperor Augustus ordered a revolution: he moved the celebrations from September to August, formally established this month as a period of rest and fun for all citizens of the Roman Empire, and called it Feriae Augusti (Latin for Augustus' holiday or Augustus' rest) so as not to confuse anyone who owes the official holiday permit 🙂
Initially, the holiday was celebrated on August 1. In Roman times, horse or draft animal races and processions with sled animals were organized throughout the Empire at that time. In addition, the workers made wishes on the occasion of Ferragosto, and in return they received tips from their masters. It was an extraordinary moment and the only occasion during the year when slaves were able to integrate with their masters.
Feriae Augusti was also combined with other traditional pagan celebrations, such as Vinalia rustica, Nemoralia and Consualia, related to the cult of the earth and fertility, which gave respite to all those working in agricultural work.
The date of the Ferragosto celebration changed again in the 7th century AD, after Christianity gained dominance in Italy. To get rid of the holiday's pagan connotations, the Church moved its celebration to August 15 to coincide with the very important Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, it cannot be said that nowadays Ferragosto is a religious holiday, the churches are rather empty at that time and some of them are even closed with the sign "chiuso per le ferie" - "closed for holidays".
In the interwar period (1931-1939) August's Ferragosto was still cultivated. At that time, Mussolini organized holiday trips for children, sports activities and summer camps by the sea and in the mountains. There were also special trains called Treni di Ferragosto with tickets at very favorable prices. Thanks to this, even poor people could reach the seaside, the mountains or visit other Italian cities in August. However, the state did not sponsor food, so families took with them enough food to last for a day of celebration. Despite the change of the system, this custom has taken root in the culture and minds of Italians who still have the habit of organizing large picnics in Ferragosto.
Nowadays, the term Ferragosto is usually used to describe the entire week in which August 15 occurs. This is the most awaited moment of the year, the time of vacation and an opportunity to play until dawn. The event last everywhere and ideas to impove it even more rise up every year. Classics include concerts, dance parties and pyrotechnic shows. Traditional forms of celebration prevail in Dorgali - horse races organized in the main street of the town, processions with sled animals and residents dressed in beautiful traditional clothes, dance and music performances by local folk groups in the evenings, but also concerts of stars and guests from around the world.
Ferragosto - the climax of great italian holidays. The first article in a series of articles about our closest surroundings.