- By AbruzzoCibus
- On Dec 21, 2018
Christmas in Agnone, there will be fire, lots and lots of fire
It is called N’docciata, it takes place in the town of Agnone where we visit as part of the grand finale to our tour, and it is the oldest festival in the world dating back to a time even before the Romans. It is exciting, tantalizing, intimidating, awe inspiring and a little scary.
Let us set the scene for you- during a night in December in the middle of the Christmas season all the Agnonese gather along a city street and wait. It is dark, it is cold in the mountaintop town of Agnone, there are Christmas lights hanging across the city street, the smell of the holiday is already in the air, and here they come…. Men dressed in all black with fanned out torches entirely ablaze attached to their shoulders come walking down the street. They even wear black hats or hoods, you can’t really make out their faces, they look like shadow men eerily creeping through the city. If it weren’t for the festive music playing the onlookers might be terrified and running for safety. But there is music, a choral participation and bagpipers (yes, Italians use bagpipes too), and there are Christmas trees and lights and wreaths on the shop doors. But the men in black carrying fire don’t bother with that, for they are the main attraction, and they know it.
The preparation for Ndocciata is intense and extensive in equal measure, the massive fans of fire take weeks to prepare. The area when the fans of flames are discarded must be cleared so the entire town doesn’t catch fire. The men who will participate enter their names and the schedule of the festival is created without a single detail being overlooked.
About the discarding of those fans of flames, they are all put in the same pile to create a huge bonfire. The bonfire has taken on many different symbolisms over the centuries, currently it is meant for people to say goodbye to anything negative as it is burned in the fire.