The magic of religious and patron saint festivals in Apulia
Religion has a great influence in Apulia, and there are many festivals related to this aspect of life which are celebrated with great enthusiasm and care. They are a mixture of religion, faith, pagan elements and other characteristics. Most of them are dedicated to the Madonna or Saints of the Roman Catholic religion.
In ancient times, numerous celebrations, especially in rural areas, were linked to the land and farming, with rituals often representing a form of thanksgiving for having survived through the winter season and a prayer asking for abundance in the spring and summer months to come.
Almost every city has a patron saint and a special day to celebrate it. Firstly, the devotees attend a solemn mass, then, they head home together in a rather special procession accompanied by music played by marching bands. It may happen that the pilgrims hold lighted votive candles to invoke the protection of the saints or to thank them for favors granted. Colorful floats decorated with flowers, people dressed in historical costumes or horsemen often follow the saint‘s statue in a parade through the streets of the town. The faithful sometimes participate in a raffle to gain the privilege of bearing on their shoulders the holy image of the saint along the processional route. One of the most impressive aspects of these festivals is represented by the illuminations, which erected along the main streets to decorate the facades of churches and palaces.
During the night processions, big bonfires are lit. The smoke and the sparks, carried by wind, will give predictions about progress of the year. A spectacular fireworks display or the launch of a large air balloon brings the curtain down on the Feasts.