The longest night of the year, when sacred and profane meet
To: Saturday, December 08, 2018
Every year, from sunset to sunrise, the town of Atri in Abruzzo turns into a timeless village, rich in traditions and enchanted by one of the oldest customs, where sacred and profane meet.
The Night of the Faugni, has become renowned in the Teramo province and beyond.
The faugni, undisputed protagonists of this magical night, are bundles of dry reeds tied together by vegetable laces that are lit by a big bonfire. They are then carried through the narrow streets of Atri in a procession accompanied by the festive atmosphere of the thousands of people present and the local band.
The faugni supposedly first appeared in 431 AD, but the practice of this tradition in Abruzzo dates back to a dim and distant past.
Fire, which has always been used as a propitiatory ritual, was lit in the countryside surrounding Teramo before the winter solstice in honour of Faun, the pagan god of crops and shepherds.
The Atrian solstice is celebrated every year from the sunset of December 7th until the sunrise of December 8th. This date has not been chosen randomly. The importance and popularity of this particular celebration is, in fact, the result of combining the profane fire ritual with the holy event which took place more than seven hundred years ago.
In December 1294, after the defeat of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, the holy house of Mary of Nazareth was carried by the angels from Nazareth to Loreto in Italy so it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Muslims. During their journey, Atri’s bonfires illuminated the path and led the way.
Each year, the program of the longest night of the year is the same beginning at sunset on December 7th, with the blessing of the bonfire, until the dawn of December 8th when the procession begins. Departing from Piazza del Duomo, it winds along the streets of the village until it finally goes back to its starting point to throw the remnants of the faugni into the great sacred fire, guarded by the magnificent Cathedral.
This is the most magical event of the year that warms up a long December night.