Saints, Feast, Family
- Traditions passed down with Cooking, Crafting, & Caring -
February 5 (celebrated as an octave in Sicily)
Saint of the day:
Patron Saint of Sicily, bell founders, breast cancer, against fire, Palermo, rape victims, and wet nurses
She is also the patron saint of Catania, where she was born, and she is said to have calmed eruptions of Mount Etna.
Feast of Saint Agatha on August 17
The feast in August lasts only one day and it’s connected to the celebrations occured in the night of August 17, 1226, when the remains of the saint were brought back in Catania from Costantinople (todays Istanbul) by the two soldiers Gisliberto and Goselmo.
The feast in August is smaller that the Feast of Saint Agatha in February, but every year it attracts many devotees and turists. The night of August 17 great fireworks color the sky starting from Catania’s harbour and from the church of Saint Placido, a real rarity.
Saint Agatha lived in the 3rd century. She was born in a patrician family in Catania and since she was young she dedicated her life to the christian religion. When she was noticed by the Roman governor Quirino, who desired her, Agatha escaped to Palermo in her mansion in the Guilla quartier. But Quirino found her and forced her to go back in Catania. Anyway, Agatha, even if she returned in Catania, continued to deny Quirino’s courting, who from love felt revenge, he started to prosecute Agatha that, after several tortures, died in prison. From her death, in February 5 251, she started being venerated by the majority of the population also by those of the pagan religion.
Saint Agatha Catholic Church
February 3-5th and the octave of Saint Agatha starts on the 5th - 12th
Saint Agatha Catholic Church
Feast of Saint Agatha, from 3 to 5 February and on August 17
The feast dedicated to Agata is suggestion, mysticism and religious spectacle. The city of Catania lights up and honors the patroness. On February 3, 4, 5 and on August 17 for the summer celebrations everything is colored. In February the martyrdom by the Roman proconsul Quinziano is remembered. In August, however, the return to Catania of her remains (stolen and brought to Constantinople by the Byzantine general Giorgio Maniace as spoils of war). February 3 opens with the offer of wax procession, born from the relationship between the devotee and the Saint for the request for a grace. An ancient custom has it that the weight of the candle corresponds to that of the devotee. The highest religious and institutional offices of the city parade along Via Etnea, the main street up to the Church of San Biagio in Piazza Stesicoro.
The procession, again, ends with the two carriages of the Senate, with the mayor and other representatives of the Municipality of Catania. Conclusion takes place in Piazza Duomo. Evening, however, is the most loved moment by the people of Catania and tourists. At 8pm from Piazza Duomo, you can admire the fireworks show, followed by the concert in honor of the Patron Saint. Tradition has it that the fireworks serve to wake the Saint up, so that she can prepare to return to Catania. February 4th begins with the Aurora Mass and the blessing of the Archbishop of Catania. This is the most touching moment. The reliquary bust of the Saint, after a year of waiting, is taken out of the sacellum and presented to the devotees. The procession begins along an external route of the city which ends with the return to the Cathedral late at night.
February 5 and the whole day tour
February 5th begins with the Mass of the Pontifical. At 5pm, after the fireworks, the reliquary bust is carried in procession throughout the night. The Candelore (wooden works of art of various sizes and heights and each belonging to a category of craft, district or association) precedes it. The procession, with the devotees pulling the feretory by ropes, winds through the main street. In this regard, it is good to talk about the clothing. The devotees, in fact, wear a white sack. According to tradition, it recalls the nightgown worn on August 17, 1126, when the relics of Sant'Agata returned to Catania.
Other key moments of February 5th are: the fireworks of the Borgo; a fireworks display that takes place late at night, in the early hours of February 6th. Sangiuliano climb; the feretory faces a long climb on a lava stone pavement that has large cracks between one slab and another. A suggestive song of the Benedictine nuns; the nuns sing a song in Latin and offer a floral tribute. Finally, the party ends with the return to the cathedral. On February 12, eight days from the whole day tour, the reliquary bust is exposed to give a last farewell to the Saint.
Culinary delights for Saint Agatha
The feast of Saint Agatha is an act of faith, but also wonder and a way to know the traditions of a southern city. For the days of the celebrations, real culinary delights of Sicilian cuisine are prepared. Cassateddi di Sant'Aita and Olivette, desserts made with marzipan. The former, also called minnuzze, refer to the Saint's breasts ripped out during martyrdom. The little olives, however, refer to an ancient legend. Agatha, while escaping from Quinziano's men, stopped to rest. Just then an olive tree appeared out of nowhere to shelter and feed her. Another interesting aspect of the festival is that of the 'Ntuppatedde, a claim for women's freedom and emancipation.
200 g 1 ⅔ cup shelled, unroasted, unsalted pistachios
175 g 1 ¾ cup almond flour
175 g 1 ¾ cup powdered sugar
Zest of one lemon
Extra powdered sugar, for coating
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use a spice grinder or food processor to grind the pistachios into a fine flour.
In a bowl, combine the pistachio flour with the almond flour.
Add sugar, eggs, and lemon zest. Mix to combine.
Break cookie dough into pieces a little bigger than a walnut shell.
Coat hands in powdered sugar and rub on the outside of the cookie dough
ball until the dough is covered in powdered sugar.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet,
leaving indents with your fingers on the dough.
Bake for about 15 minutes.
The dough should still be soft, like marzipan.
Bake for 18-22 minutes for a crunchier cookie.