The festival of Giubiana, traditions in northern Italy

The Giubiana is a traditional celebration having great popularity in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, and particularly in Brianza, as well as in the region of Piedmont. During the last Thursday in January, bonfires are lit, on which the Giubiana (i.e. a puppet of an old witch) is burnt.

According to some, she is named after the ancient Roman God Jupiter, and this is why celebrations are held on Thursdays (“Giovedì”) in the Latin tradition the day of Jupiter. Furthermore, according to popular traditions, on Thursday nights (or Saturday nights) witches assembled for Sabbath.

In the days before the festival the villagers collect all that’s combustible (wood, hay, paper etc.), and put a pyre together. After a procession through the village street, the Giubiana is placed on the pyre and set on fire. The rite is both symbolic and propitiatory. The Giubiana is burnt to ashes to terminate the winter, so that the pyre flame is believed to predict an abundant harvest in the upcoming year.

There are different versions of the story: in the town where I was born the story of Giubiana is fairly different from the others which describe her as an old, ugly witch.  The story I was told takes place in the city of Cantù.

In the XII century, the cities of Como and Milan were at war: Canturium (Cantù) was one of Milan’s allies, and it was under siege. They resisted many months, and the enemy could not find a way to breach the walls. One night in January a beautiful, innocent-looking girl knocked at a priest’s door. The priest, father Lorenzo, mistook her for the Virgin Mary and invited her in. The girl was so charming that she managed to steal the keys of the city: Cantù was conquered by Como, but in the end Milan won the war and freed the city. The traitor was then sentenced to death and burnt at the stake.

Every year, in the city of Cantù and small towns nearby a life-size puppet of an old woman is burnt. The puppet is a symbol of betrayal and deceit: it is said that if it burns completely and quickly, the harvest will be good.

The “Festa della Giubiana” did not, however, originate in the middle ages: it has very ancient roots and dates back to pre-christian times.

The name Giubiana could derive from latin ‘Joviana’, and thus from the cult of the roman goddess Juno. Others think it has to do with the god Jupiter, since the celebrations are held on thursdays, in italian “giovedì” (from Giove –Jupiter).

This celebration coincides with the roman festivity of “Feriae Sementivae”, or simply “Sementivae”, the festival of sowing.

It was held in honor of Ceres (the goddess of agriculture) and Tellus (Mother Earth). The initial half of the event was a festival in honor of Tellus which ran from January 24 through January 26. The festival honoring Ceres occurred one week later, starting February 2. The purpose of The Sementina dies was to pray for a good harvest.

In this festival to celebrate the beginning of the year, Fire and Light symbolize hope and rebirth, opposed to the darkness and the cold of winter.

In my town, children are encouraged to write or draw on a sheet of paper what scares them and place it on the pyre before it is lit. They are told that the purifying force of the fire will burn and banish their fears for good.  


General: Artichokes, Squash, Basil, Truffles, Butter, Cream, Salt Cod, Anchovies, Amaretti, Porcini Mushrooms, Mostarda, Radicchio, Prosciutto, Pancetta, Bresaola, Basil. 

Cheeses: Asiago (Veneto), Fontina (Valle d'Aosta), Montasio (Friuli-Venezia Giulia/Veneto), Bra Tenero (Piedmont), Piave Vecchio (Veneto), Parmagiano-Reggiano (Emilia-Romagna), Grana Padano (Lombardy/Piedmont/Emilia-Romagna/Veneto), Gorgonzola (Piedmont/Lombardy), Marscapone (Lombardy), Talegio (Lombardy). 

Grains: Arborio Rice, Carnaroli Rice, Vilane Nano Rice, Polenta, Potato Gnocchi, Type 00 flour, Rye flour, Chickpeas, Borlotti Beans, Cannellini Beans. 

Oils: Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil. 

Spices: Sea Salt, Black Peppercorns, Star Anise, Cloves, Nutmeg, Saffron.  

Vinegars: Pinot Grigio Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, White Balsamic Vinegar. 

Leaving, for good.

“Why would you ever want to leave the United States”?

That is a question I seem to get daily. Some people cannot fathom packing up their whole life into 2 carry on bags and starting completely over. You see, this has been my life since I was old enough to run. At 14 I was disappearing for weeks, and on and off until I was 21. I made it a challenge to see how far and fast I could run. I was the epitome of girl filled with wanderlust and never saw a chance to stay. I ran from Virginia to New York, North Carolina, Florida and hopes of other places. When I moved to Columbus I felt at home in a city that I had never called my own. I was seeing the lights, people and tall buildings of my dreams with that small town charm I loved. I soon there after met my now husband.

So with all that said why would I/we ever choose to leave? We are choosing to leave because my life has been deemed less than by my own government. I cannot sponsor my husband to be a permanent resident. Money is not something that has ever been important to me, but over the last 3 years I have been forced to see it as a must have. I could show you endless notebooks and planners full to the brim with lists and plans of how exactly every penny would be spent. I still was not able to meet the “poverty line”. I was a full time student going back into a career I had left once to start over. I’m sure I will have plenty of blogs about going back to school at 24 after working full time for many years before.

Around May of 2016 Alexander and I started to file for Permanent Residence. We spent hours and hours researching and planning how it could work out. I would end up reading myself into a panic attack. I am not good at worry or stress. That is especially true when I am in jeopardy of losing the one I love the most. You see, I tend to go into survival mode and jump to the absolute worst conclusion of what is going to happen.

We worked on the seven documents for around 3 months. We had spent tons of money on printing out and reprinting documents, getting notarized copies and translations. With the fees of close to four thousand dollars, and a lawyer fee of three thousand looming over our heads, we were exhausted.

One morning around 3:00am I was in the middle of a panic attack and literally could not handle the fact that we might not be able to continue living the life we had started together, where we planned it. Alex was talking me off of what seemed to be the third cliff that week. I turned to him and said it.

“Why are we doing this”?

I felt an energy leave my body as I began to wonder why I was putting so much effort into something that was eating me from the inside out. From that night on we started researching how and where we could go. That search went from England to Norway, Australia, Malta, and back to Alex’s home country of Italy.

I think we really made the decision to leave that night. Although we did go back and forth with it. I could no longer live looking at my bank account hoping for a miracle, or for a job to fall from the sky and save us. Now, here we are almost a year later with all but one of the steps taken to move to Italy. The last step cannot be completed until we arrive in Italy. You shouldn’t worry though I am going to make a series of blogs about when, where and how we are moving. I plan on writing everything from dealing with immigrating to another county, how to do so, and what we will do when we are there. I am so excited to share my journey with you. You can follow my blog for everything you can imagine when it comes to life. Blogs, Pictures, Recipes, Tutorials and lots and lots of traveling.