In the period just before the celebration of St. Joseph, in Puglia it is not unusual to come across groups of young people collecting wood pruning of olive trees and vines f in the countryside. This sets the beginning of a competition that sees the wards of opposite neighborhood accumulating the greatest amount of wood to create the biggest and majestic fire.
On the night of the 19th March, pagan and Christian rites come together to celebrate the spring equinox, the end of the winter and the beginning of the summer: the light that overcomes the darkness.
The fire has always been seen as a symbol of purification and consecration, associated to the rites that aim to appease the nature and ensure a good year for harvesting.
These rituals are accompanied throughout the night by music and songs, and of course also by delicious food and good wine from Puglia! People use to gather and eat all around the warmth of the fire that makes everything looking even more magic. Only when the flames start decreasing, encouraged by their friends and few glasses of wine, the boldest ones try to challenge the fire by jumping through its flames and performing the ritual of unconscious domination of the forces of the nature.
A typical treat not to be missed during the celebrations of St. Joseph are the Zeppole. An ancient recipe that recalls the sweet bread that Joseph, while in Egypt with Mary and Jesus and in difficult economic times, had to sell in order to support his family.
A tip for the night of the 19 March, if you find yourself in the area of the Daunia Mountains you should definitely pay a visit to Bovino, declared one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and orange flag.
If you are nearby the southern area of Puglia, instead, do not miss the Tàule of St. Joseph, tables with a symbolic meaning that are set and displayed in the houses and the streets of most of the towns in the provinces of Lecce, Taranto and Brindisi.
Written by Silvia Cerrato