Lent in Italy

Lent in Italy – Corajisima, A Calabrian Tradition

This article is from Calabria: The Other Italy. Check out this website to see additional information and pictures:


If you happen to be celebrating Easter in Calabria and you arrive a little early, you may just come across what looks like a ragdoll hanging from a balcony or the side of a house. Not to panic, this is not some form of malocchio or evil eye, but Corajisima, a traditional practice during Lent in Italy, specifically, Calabria and other areas of the south.


Corajisima is more a who than a what. She is the wife or perhaps more accurately said, the widow, of Carnevale. She can also be called the sorella or sister of Carnevale. After the great feast of Martedì Grasso or Fat Tuesday, Carnevale, the embodiment of the revelries, dies. Poor Corajisima remains alone. Usually depicted as an ugly, skinny old woman with a decidedly unsettling appearance, she represents abstinence in the Lenten period.

Continue reading “Lent in Italy”


Il Carnevale Italiano: usanze, tradizioni e proverbi dialettali

This article appeared on the website of Musica Popolare Italiana in February of 2018. Follow this link to see more pictures and videos:


Redazione Musica Popolare 12/02/2018 

Il carnevale è una festa che si celebra nei Paesi di tradizione cattolica. I festeggiamenti si svolgono spesso in pubbliche parate in cui dominano elementi giocosi e fantasiosi; in particolare, l’elemento distintivo e caratterizzante del carnevale è l’uso del mascheramento.

Il “Processo del Carnevale” è tra i festeggiamenti carnevaleschi più diffusi, infatti lo ritroviamo in molte regioni italiane e sopravvive anche nella tradizione popolare odierna. Dopo il testamento del Carnevale, al quale si addossano tutti i mali del vecchio ciclo annuale, di solito si usa metterlo a morte. L’uccisione può avvenire per per impiccagione o decapitazione ed è il momento culminante del dramma e dei festeggiamenti, ma la forma più usuale è quella del fuoco, ovvero la messa al rogo del fantoccio di Carnevale che troviamo in tantissime località.

Continue reading “Carnevale!”

Festa del Grano in Molise

These flowers, handmade from wheat, are just one facet of the elaborate tradition in Jelsi, Molise, where an annual Festa del Grano is held in honor of Saint Anna. Search for more live video and archives of this enduring tradition.


For more, visit this English language site with several videos detailing the event:

Our thanks to Janine Giarrusso, an IFAFA member from Pittsburgh, PA, for this interesting post! This festival takes place today (26 JULY 2018) in Molise!

Book: Global Tarantella

Global Tarantella: Reinventing Southern Italian Folk Music and Dances
Incoronata Inserra, Virginia Commonwealth University

Book: Global Tarantella

In Global Tarantella (University of Illinois Press, 2017) Incoronata Inserra ventures into the history, global circulation, and recontextualization of tarantella, a genre of Southern Italian folk music and dance. Examining tarantella’s changing image and role among Italians and Italian Americans, Inserra illuminates how factors like tourism, translation, and world music venues have shifted the ethics of place embedded in the tarantella cultural tradition. Once rooted in a world of rural Catholicism, tarantella now thrives in urban, secular, migrant, and ethnic settings. Inserra reveals how the genre’s changing dynamics contribute to reimagining Southern Italian identity and shows how its global growth promotes a reassessment of gender relations in the Italian South, helping create space for Italian and Italian American women to reclaim gendered aspects of the genre.

Calandra Italian American Institute
For more information, contact the Calandra Italian American Institute at:

St. Joseph Altar Celebration in Des Moines, IA

— Patricia Civitate, Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa and Director of Il Trattenimento Italiano Folk Dance Troupe

This year marked the 21st anniversary of the St. Joseph Altar Celebration sponsored by the Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa. This event was successful because of the many hours that numerous volunteers spent making sure that this would be a truly traditional and spiritual undertaking. Sincere thanks to all those who made it happen.

Central St. Joseph Altar

Kathy Foggia and Mary Romanelli began early in February setting up the hall with the backdrop curtains and the three-tiered steps that formed the altar. They covered the steps with linens, attached the table skirts, and then proceeded to add the decorative breads, altar identification cards, and other symbols of faith. John Heldreth and Joseph Boehm donated additional fruits and vegetables and completed the decoration of the altars. Continue reading “St. Joseph Altar Celebration in Des Moines, IA”

From Leslie Gigliotti in New Orleans

IFAFA President Leslie Gigliotti returned home from New Orleans today, but she shared these pictures from an altar that she viewed over the weekend. From Leslie:

Local St Joseph’s Day altar in New Orleans

Saint Joseph’s day isn’t until Monday, but a hotel here put their altar up earlier this week. Churches, supermarkets, parochial schools, private homes all have viewings. The paper here puts out a listing.

Alligator made of bread and a crayfish too! And traditional wheat design that they showed us in our vestedde class that some of you may have made in the workshop at last fall’s IFAFA Conference in Rockford, IL. Continue reading “From Leslie Gigliotti in New Orleans”

St. Joseph’s Feast Day in New Orleans

(originally published by Nicole Jankowsky in “The Salt” from NPR <https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/18/519987433/move-over-st-patrick-st-josephs-feast-is-when-italians-parade>)

[Photo courtesy of The Italian American St. Joseph Society]
The St. Patrick’s parade is over and the Irish (and honorary Irish) have gone home to sleep off their annual bout of intemperance, but the multi-generational marchers of the Italian-American St. Joseph Society in New Orleans are only just dusting off their tuxedos and straightening their bow ties. Once the shamrocks and shenanigans have vanished from the narrow streets of the French Quarter, and the keg of green beer is empty, another parade — in honor of an entirely different saint — is beginning to gear up. Continue reading “St. Joseph’s Feast Day in New Orleans”

The Tradition of St. Joseph’s Table

March 19th is the Feast Day of St. Joseph, one of the most beloved saints in the Catholic tradition, regarded as the protector of the family. His feast day is celebrated in many ways throughout Italy, but it has a special significance to Sicilians and Sicilian-Americans.

The Holy Family

The origin of the celebration dates back to a severe drought which took place in Sicily during the Middle Ages. Crops failed, farm animals died, and famine spread across the island. The Sicilian people turned their prayers to St. Joseph, asking him to intercede on their behalf for relief from the devastating famine, and they promised that, in return, they and their descendants would honor St. Joseph each year on his feast day. Rain came and returned life to the dried land. The disaster was averted, and the Sicilian people gave thanks to St. Joseph with a celebration. The villagers gathered food and placed it on the Continue reading “The Tradition of St. Joseph’s Table”

Christmas: The Legend of Panettone

[The Italian version – Natale: la leggenda del panettone – appears at the end of this reading.]

Our beloved panettone, sweet symbol of the Christmas season, has a rather amusing origin. Panettone, as it is understood today, is a recent gastronomical specialty in the history of Italian sweets. In fact, it is said to have been invented only at the end of the 19th century in Milan according to a truly legendary episode.

As a greeting for a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year, here is the delightful story of the famous panettone. Once upon a time there was a bread-maker named Toni. One fine day, Toni fell madly in love with a certain peasant girl named Lucia. Lucia went to town every morning to sell eggs. Toni, every morning, awaited Lucia’s arrival with longing and enthusiasm, and then, when he saw her, so strong were the feelings that he felt for this young country girl that he never knew what to say and he remained dumbstruck. So many loving glances exchanged, so many sighs, and so many broken eggs, just because this poor devil was unable to express his love. Finally, Toni had a brilliant idea: he decided to prepare a dessert for his adored Lucia, not just any dessert, but a special dessert never made before!

So, Toni prepared a dessert made with eggs, butter, and candied fruit in a Continue reading “Christmas: The Legend of Panettone”

A Christmas Eve Tradition

— by Leslie Gigliotti

Although Christmas is commonly viewed as a commercial holiday, for many families it is still a religious holiday steeped in tradition. This is especially true for the Italian-American population. In Italy, it is often said, Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you wish). One of the many family traditions, alongside decorating the tree and attending midnight mass, is preparing seven types of fish dishes for the Christmas Eve meal.

The tradition of the seven fishes prepared for meals on Christmas Eve lends itself to a Central and Southern Italian tradition and is not prevalent in the Northern region. Some argue that this may be due to Southerners being a bit more superstitious than their Northern counterparts. Of course, you don’t have to look too far for an explanation of why fish is an obvious choice on Christmas Eve: Catholic rules prohibit the consumption of meat on Christmas Eve.

But, like many traditions, the Christmas Eve fish dish has many explanations. There are several arguments provided as to why there are seven fishes consumed, rather than say, six, or even ten. Some reasons are overtly religious: seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; seven sins: pride, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust and greed; seven sacraments of the Church: baptism, penance, Holy Eucharist, Continue reading “A Christmas Eve Tradition”