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The roosters of Sant'Antonio

"Don Don open to Sant'Andoine, Don Don open to Sant'Andoine!" After repeated in almost 15 different houses for three days, you wont be able to remove it from you're head for almost a month!

17 January; I am in Penna Sant’Andrea (TE) "the most important village of the province in the world" like Augusto always say, virtuous blasphemer of the saint, that all year long waits with impatience this date, releasing the tension on the costumers of his bar, in the little plaza of the village. His bar is most certainly the worst bar of the province of the world. If you go there and survive, you wont be able to stay with out it. It's already the fifth time in this trip that I turn up there, and without exception I get out with my soul damned and my liver pulped. Today instead Augusto's bar becomes the place of departure of the Sandandonaijre, the group that I will follow during the ritual of the begging that characterize the feast of Sant'Antonio Abate.  VERSIONE IN ITALIANO

We leave at an imprecise our with a number imprecise of musicians; the cert thing is the humid cold weather. Augusto chooses a way, Roberto rubs his hands before putting some broken gloves, then warms up the little organ by playing some notes e then we go in the quarters beneficing houses, families and domestic animals, singing about Sant’ Antonio fighting against the devil.

Bonasera bbona ggende, che vivete allegramende; ve salute Sand’Andonie, prutettore condr’a lu Demonie. (Good evening  good people, that you live happily; Sant’ Antonio, that protects you from the Devil, salutes). It’s with these verses that they are welcomed in the houses; people are waiting for them; they know that if it wasn’t yesterday or the day before, today will be their turn. Some of them made a chicken fat up so they could give it to group; it’s the maximum gesture of grace for the group that brings the benediction of Sant’Antonio and the happiness of this festivity.  Some cook succulent banquets to offer to the group. “Lu cellitte” are the traditional delicacies with the shape of birds.  Three or four songs are dedicated to each family, then the group fills of gifts the basket, leaves singing the “don don” e walks (always more staggering) towards the next house.


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The Sant’ Antonio is a ritual of prayer that has a lot of importance in the pagan tradition; it takes place in the period of agricultural break, when the arms can rest waiting for the spring. It’s a ritual of good luck for the harvest, for the health of the domestic animals and of the family. It’s more importantly a way to stay all together: in a little community the ritual restores and strengthens the human relationships, because it is based on a religious-playful aspect, on the exchange, on the joke, on the chat, on the demonstrations of careness and affection.

The pagan and religious aspect blend making more human the soprannatural and at the same time more soprannatural the human. Gianfraco wares a vest and performs Sant’ Antonio. He tells me the legend, transmitted by Atanasio, of this Saint born in Egipt proponent of a life of strict asceticism. He's always represented with a little pig at his side. The Antonians infact cured with the pigs lard the “Sant’ Antonian fire”. The period of the calendar where is placed the saint's feast day coincides with other peasant rituals like the pig slaughter, the fires in the winter Solstice and so Sant’ Antonio is the protector of the domestic animals and of some diseases. It’s still usual custom to put an image of the Saint in the barn.

This ritual, that was in danger of exctinction, today is reinvingorated; it’s not rare to see other groups of kids in the streets with “ddu bbotte”(little organ) and a “battafoche”(friction drum); it’s an indication of revitalization of tradition filled with modern social codes, maybe because of the need to find an identity.

When the “Sandandonaijre” finish their tour is almost night. Even this year they have accomplished their mission. Augusto’s car is fill of roosters. The group will eat them in some months (I ate the ones of last year). Our livers ask pity but our heart is light and waits for the next Sant' Antonio.

In the mein time the worst bar of province of the world will remain, like the heart of who manages it and goes there, always open.

Thanks: to all of the sacried roosters, to Lj Sandandonaijre, to Antonio’s bar and mostly at his “vocalucci”, to Tonino Fabri, mayor of Penna, to Gianfranco Spitilli (http://bambun.webnode.com) and his cowbell, to Antonio and his family and theyr restaurant Zà Beata, that hosted us and made us put on weight in our worst moments.

Subtitles by: Giulia Forlivesi

VERSIONE IN ITALIANO

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