Burning Down the Town?

by Annie

moccule1If you happen upon the Piceno hill town of Castignano on Martedí Grasso (Fat Tuesday), you might think the perfectly preserved medieval hamlet is being sacked and burned. While that may have been a real threat several hundred years ago when Castignano was a regional center for the Knights Templar, nowadays the marauders bearing torches are paesani enjoying the last day of Carnvale with an age old tradition called Li Moccule.

Li Moccule, the dialect word for candles, derives from a Roman rite but was resurrected in this village during the Renaissance and is still carried on proudly. Candles are placed on bamboo sticks and covered with fancifully colored paper designs. Once lit the townspeople parade through the sinewy streets that spiral up to the main piazza at the highest point of the town, casting a festive, multi-hued effect along the way. In front of the church in the middle of the piazza all the moccule are tossed into a bonfire amid chants.

In this neck of the woods on the 24th? Join this “funeral procession” which lays to rest the madness of Carnevale to begin the penitent period of Lent, while the bonfire is symbolic of purification. Castignano’s last Carnevale hoorah is anything but somber with costumed residents blazing out the party all night.

Special thanks to Lino Corradetti, Pro Loco di Castignano, for providing the photos!

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