Tag Archives: holiday

Mario’s Special Holiday

Children’s Story Written by Grazia Martienssen

Good day children, Flyer the seagull here, let me tell you about…

August in Italy:
In August it is summer in Italy, and extremely hot. Mario and his family live in Taormina, a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily. Today is the 15th of August, which is a special holiday called Ferragosto, and is named after the Roman emperor Feriae Augusti who ruled even before Jesus was born.

Ferragosto is also the day that Mother Mary went to heaven, and is celebrated on the same day. Like most Italians, Mario’s family is catholic and believes that Mother Mary was taken into heaven, body and soul.

Do you have any special holiday you enjoy with your family?
Do you know the history behind your special holiday?

La Vara

Celebrations:
Mario’s parents run a small business from home and it will be closed for 2 weeks over Ferragosto. Some friends and relatives join them for the big festivities on the 15th, others work in supermarkets, so have to work half day before joining them.

At 10am Mario goes to Mass with his family and there is a special procession through the streets of Taormina. It is the celebration of la Vara which started in the first half of the 1500s.

La Vara is a large pyramid-shaped structure that symbolizes the assumption of Mary into heaven. The base is the tomb of Mary with the apostles around it. On top, there are statues of Jesus, angels, the sun, the moon and a starry globe.

It is carried by the faithful dressed in blue, in honour of the Madonna (Mary). It is moved by pulling ropes which have been blessed and are later cut into small pieces and given out to the people.

They all go to Giovanni’s house, where the women prepare pasta al forno (pasta bake) while the men braai the meat for the second course. Some of his cousins have come from north Italy where they eat different varieties of food. They tell him about their dishes, but they also enjoy the pasta and meat.

Do you go to church with your family?
If so, which church do you go to?
What special celebrations do you enjoy?

Palio Del Assunta

They go have a picnic up the mountain overlooking a beautiful view of the sea. There are lots of people as everyone is at the sea or the mountains.

At their picnic, Mario met some tourists from England. The next day his parents took them to a museum, where there is air conditioning. With this excuse, they learned a bit about the history of Italy.

In full Italian spirit, Mario’s parent’s offered to take the tourists to Siena in north Italy by train the next day.
This special trip involves a famous horse race called the Palio Del Assunta, which takes place at the central piazza (square).

On the way there the older relatives explain that as they were poor in their younger days, their parents used to take advantage of the cheap holidays and train travel organized on a large scale by the government in the 1920s.

Have you ever travelled by train?
If yes, where did you go?
Did you enjoy the ride?

Horse ride:
In Siena they book at a guest house run by one of dad’s friends. Nonno (grandfather) knows some of the horse owners. He speaks to them and arranges for the children to go on a short horse ride in the evening when it’s cooler. The children enjoy the ride and take lots of photos and videos to remember the special occasion.

Have you ever been on a horse?

Gina’s Italy

Children’s story was written by Grazia Martienssen

Good day children, Flyer the seagull here, let me tell you about:

Ginas Italy:

Gina lives in Messina, on the Italian island of Sicily. Today she’s very excited because it’s the 2nd of June, and there’s no school today because it’s Italy’s national day (La Festa della Repubblica). Her teacher recently taught the class all about its meaning through poetry. She learned that Italy used to be a monarchy, which means they had a king and a queen and became a republic in 1946. That was also the year that her bis nonna (great granny) was born! This was also a very important year for women because they voted for the first time that year.

Did you know Italy is shaped like a boot?
Do you know that Sicily is at the bottom of Italy?
Do you know what an island is?

The Festivities:

Gina’s dad’s office is also closed today. Her zia (aunt) works half day and joins them later with her cousin Vito. Zia and mamma prepare food using the colours of the Italian flag.

Do you know which colours are in the Italian flag?
(Green, white and red).

Gina’s learning to make food from these colours and helps with making the Caprese salad, which is made from fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and yes, you guessed it, fresh mozzarella cheese.
Dad gets the Italian flags and musical instruments ready because they going to play at the street parades. He always makes sure they are super clean and polished. Gina and Vito dress up in the national Italian costumes that bis nonna and nonna made for them. The adults teach them short poems, telling the story of Italy. It’s really fun reciting poems with the family. Gina and Vito also fly little flags as they recite the poems

Do you know any special poems?
Later at the carnival, the children all have little flags, and join in the festivities singing Italian national songs. They join their older cousins in playing music and dancing. Gina’s uncle flies one of the nine planes that let out smoke in the Italian colours. They enjoy the street parades and take part in all the concerts. Everyone claps at their performance. Then they all go to a piazza (public square) from where they watch the president of the republic place a ceremonial wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Rome, at the Altare della patria (The altar of the fatherland). After that a military parade goes out. It really is spectacular. The colosseum is decorated with the Italian flag and lights up in the colours of the flag at night. The grandest festivities are held in Rome.

Have you ever been to Rome?
Gina’s best friend Rosa recently moved to Rome, and Gina wishes next year they can go there to take part in the festivities, because they are very grand in comparison to Messina. Later they all go to the beach for a picnic. The children run around saying the different poems such as;

White alps, green hills, red for bravery
1946 was the year Italy had victory
Woman voted no one stopped them
Italy was free.

They had been taught this and other poems to learn about Italy’s history.
Did you know that Rome is the capital of Italy?
Do you know anyone who lives in Italy?

The meaning of the colours:

Granny and great granny teach the children poems about the colours of the flag having religious meaning. Green stands for hope, white for faith and red for charity, but their older cousins tell them that is outdated. Green stands for the hills and plains, white for the snowy Alps and other mountain regions, and red for the wars of independence.

Do you know the colours of your country’s flag?
Do you know what they represent?