The Quarantane: Old popular tradition in Puglia

With the season of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Day, some villages in Puglia celebrate the ancient popular tradition of the Quarantane.

In particular, this is typical of the cities of Fasano and Ruvo di Puglia, as well as the communities around the area of Bari.

The Quarantana, also called Caremma, is the puppet of an old lady that represents the widow of Carnival, a superstitious and exorcising figure. The Quarantana is dressed in rags and her head is covered with a handkerchief, all strictly in black as a sign of mourning. These puppets are hanged in the streets of the villages, from a window to another, and watch over the population for the forty days of Lent, recalling also the repentance of sins typical of this religious period.

Each puppet is decorated with symbolic objects: a time, symbol of women’s work, and an orange, symbol of that winter that just leaves, in which are embedded seven chicken feathers, one for each week of Lent. As the weeks go by, the feathers are removed so that people can keep count of the weeks left until Easter. The Quarantana is also wearing a necklace made of seven taralli and seven cloves of garlic.The taralli are symbol of the poverty of the table while the garlic is used to ward off evil and temptations.

Finally, on Easter Day, all the Quarantane are burned up during a spectacular event, as a symbol of purification and the victory of life over death, the spring over the winter. In the past this ritual was used to bless the crops and at noon on Holy Saturday all farmers and local people would stop their work and businesses to start preparing for the big event on Sunday.

Photo Credits: @Francesco Casale @Pro Loco Conversano @Giuseppe Fanizza