August 15th is Ferragosto, an extremely cherished and important holiday, yet only for Italians. It has a long and complicated history and has reached present days mixing its pagan origins with playful accents and links to the Catholic Church. Ready to know more about this all-Italian tradition? Let’s go!
The word Ferragosto comes from Feriae Augusti, “Augustus’ rest”. In 18 B.C. Imperor Octavian Augustus established a resting day for farmers to mark the end of the hard working months leading to the Summer harvest. At the time, Romans already used to celebrate Conso, Earth and Fertility God, as well as other gods, therefore this new feast day was added up to give farmers a few consecutive days of rest.
As for traditional packed lunches and short day trips, they are associated with Ferragosto since the fascist era. At the time the regime used to organise “Working-Class Trains”, low-cost trips of one to three days that common people used to visit art cities or beach towns, often for the first time in their lifetime. Meals where not part of the deal, so Italians used to bring their own food. Packed lunches are still a major part of the Ferragosto tradition to these days.
In 1950, Ferragosto meets the Catholic Church when Pope Pious XII moves the feast day from August 1st to August 15th to make it the same day of the Assumpion of the Virgin Mary, her Ascension into the heavens in both body and soul.
Today, Ferragosto is a pretty important celebration day in the whole Country and most Italians are on holiday for the whole week. Cities, oppressively hot, are empty, while beaches and holiday places are in full swing with BBQs and night bonfires. Water balloons are pretty common during the hottest hours of the day, when teams of friends have fun engaging in “wild water wars”.
Happy celebrations are then immediately followed by a bit of melancholy – as always in the Italian temperament. As the saying goes: “Ferragosto, beginning of winter”, August 15th marks the peak of Summer fun, meaning the following days gradually lead us all to Autumn and the usual commitments.
However, as for now: Happy Ferragosto! Be it a joyous day of fun for us all!
And remember, on Ferragosto we will be at the beach with everyone else, but you can reach us at our desks as usual on any other day of August!
The Easy Diplomacy Team