Sicily is a place where modern life and age old traditions coexist, where often, unfortunately, clichés abound, preventing people from seeing the true essence.
In cities and especially in small towns, modern life has not erased the predominant role left to the sacred.
Each city or town in Sicily stops at least once a year to pay tribute to “his” Holy, an event that always follows a tradition but also finds new ways to innovate. All the inhabitants of the town are involved and feel intimately that the event, which is not only a matter of faith but a way to affirm once again the identity of a country and its history.
Traditionally the coming out of the Saint from the church is often accompanied by the launch of ‘nzareddi (strips of colored paper) with the flags opening the procession. The “<em>fercolo</em>” (on which the Saint is carried) is followed by the faithful that hold votive candles, purchased with the request of a pardon. It’s amazing how many people get involved in the event, regardless of age or social class; children and old people take part in the celebration of a ritual which is handed down through the generations.
Many festivities are marked by the participation of fraternities, whose members are proud to pass the importance of participation from father to son. The presence in the procession of the fraternity gives a magical and mysterious taste to the celebration, suggesting but not revealing ancient rituals.
Behind all the colour and folklore, it is the emotional involvement of faith that remains primary. In front of the holy picture lines of faithful bow down to ask a favour or simply go to say a prayer or kiss the sacred effigy.
It is common to offer of cash to the saint, often through the hand of a child, who stretches his arm to extend the money. However it is rare that the funds collected go to charity, indeed the money offered is almost always contracted to pay the expenses for organizing the event.
In some towns, courtyards or balconies of the houses are adorned with finely embroidered towels, small altars, a sign of pride of the family who live there that want to greet all with the honors the saint. Families huddle on the balconies to watch the procession wearing their “good” clothes, the head of the family is often in a suit and tie because that is the feast day for excellence.
Sicily is a land of color, faith and folklore, a land that refuses common opinions and uses these moments to find its own spirituality.