The Putignano Carnival is one of the biggest Carnivals in Italy and is also the longest and one of the oldest carnival in the world. It has in fact very old origins (few records date this event back to the 26th of December 1394) and it still retains few traditional rites such as the “Feste delle Propaggini”, “Festa dell’Orso” (The Feast of the Bear), the “Burial of Carnival”.
The “Rito della Propaggine” signs the beginning of the carnival and is a celebration of the event that gave birth to the carnival on the 26th of December 1394 when the Holy Remains of St. Steven Protomartyrs were transferred from Monopoli to Putignano in an attempt to protect them from invading Saracens. People dress as farmers join the procession while dancing, singing and reciting satirical verses in the local dialect. They also bring a candle to the church asking forgiveness for all sins they will commit during the carnival period.
Starting on the the 17th of January until the Fat Tuesday, every Thursday is dedicated to satire with floats and parades celebrating different social classes. The first Thursday is usually dedicated to monsignors, followed by priests, nuns, widows, married women and married men.
Another traditional step of the carnival is the Festa dell’Orso (Bear Feast) which is celebrated on the 2nd of February. According to an old tradition and following a burlesque logic the bear forecasts the climate for the remaining of the winter: if the weather is good then the climate for remaining part of the winter will be bad, if it is bad the weather will be good.
Farinella is the figure that represents the Carnival. Farinella is a jester wearing a multicolored suit and has bells on the two tips of the hat and also on shoes and collar. The name comes from farinella, a poor but tasty dish made with chickpea and barley flour. Eaten with fresh figs it was a dish for country workers.
The peak of the celebrations is in February when able craftsmen make papier-mâché floats and a massive parade is organized in town to celebrate this period of fun before the arrival of Lent, the Catholic period of prayer and penitence. The floats usually represent caricatures of politicians or TV personalities and carry social or political messages and their themes are related to satire or current public affairs. They are always accompanied by troupes of costumed dancers tossing coriandoli, hundreds of tiny pieces of colored paper with loud music engaging the crowds of spectators. In addition to the floats, lots of jokes are organized in town and it is lots of fun for people of all ages.
The carnival ends on the evening of Fat Tuesday when 365 tolls resonate from the bell tower reminding everybody that the Carnival is over and the Lent is approaching.
For more info on this event visit the official website: www.carnevalediputignano.it