From north to south of Italy, there are countless San Giuseppe bonfires, each with its own rituals and traditions.
The bonfire is part of a purification and consecration ritual. In many regions of continental Europe, bonfires are traditionally made on certain Christian religious holidays.
In Italy, however, it is known that every religious holiday is magically intertwined with some pagan ritual that still persists today despite the years. Thus, on March 19th, in many cities and towns throughout Italy, the end of winter and the beginning of spring are celebrated, and the bonfire is the symbol of this long-awaited transition.
The bonfire is part of a purification and consecration ritual. Typically, in this enormous controlled fire, a dummy that resembles an old man or woman is burned, symbolizing winter. By burning the dummy, they bid farewell to the cold season and welcome the beginning of spring.
Huge bonfires are used to burn all the negativity of winter along with the wood. Young and old people gather “ceppi” from the fields, which are branches of centuries-old olive trees or scraps of pruned vines, to make piles to light and promote a good year for oil and vines.
But it’s not just the olive tree that is a propitious tree, in some villages, pine or holm oak branches or even broom are burned. In short, a widely spread custom still today, where tradition blends with modernity of events, without losing the magic of the devotional bonfire ritual, a symbol of purification and good luck for a fruitful year in the fields.
Everyone should search for the nearest bonfire, but don’t forget to throw an olive branch into the fire as a sign of good luck for the start of the beautiful season.