Sant’Agata

Yes, winter has a lot of holidays that have wonderful celebrations. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that nothing is being done on the farms right now and it is dark and cold and people need to bring some joy into their lives?

Also, not all Saint’s days are celebrated all over Italy. Some are just in the town that has chosen the saint as a patron saint, like today, Sant’Agata, who is Patron Saint of Catania.

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Often in the holy cards how they were martyed is portrayed with symbols. Yes, those do look like small boobs on the plate in her hand. Often you also see iron tool used to remove her breasts.

But leave it to the Italians to make a sweet in her honor, representing her boobs. There are several versions, one is a chaste white glazed pastry shaped like a breast with a cherry “nipple”. In Sicilian, breasts are called Minne. The dessert in Catania is the white glazed one and you can find it all year in the pastry shops, called Minne di Sant’Agata.

There are several versions, like a mini cassata with a spongecake base, ricotta filled and a marzipan covering then glazed. You can also find the baked cassata version with the ricotta in two layers of a baked crust, shaped like the boobs, then glazed and the ever present cherry nipple.

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Near Menfi, it is more of a baked pie, shaped like a breast with an interesting filling made with a thick milk pudding, chocolate and a spoon sweet made from candied squash called zuccata and then baked and covered with sprinkles, more like a stripper. They are called Minne della Virgine and are traditionally made for their celebration of the Virgin Mary in May.

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The town goes wild. They celebrate for several days. People may not go to church often, but your patron saint is like your best friend. They are very devote. The statues are often covered in gold, gifts from the followers. One would never think of asking for a favor, without offering something in exchange. It is possible to buy a grazie ricevute ( sterling silver thin plates stamped with hearts, or representing body parts, which you are praying for, such as an eyes, arms or lungs, perhaps a figure of man or woman, to give to the Saint.

People don’t have money to buy something new, so offer something they have, a gold chain or  wedding rings. Often the statues are taken on parade covered in their gifts.

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It is fascinating to see the treasures of the church, which are often on exposition near the main statues in the church.

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This is in Syracuse, Sicily. Their patron saint is Santa Lucia, patron saint of eyes.

The sterling silver statue is paraded around town on the shoulders of the devout members of the parish.

photo from La Repubblica newspaper, this year’s festival in Catania

I always love planning a trip around a festival, the first thing to check is when their patron saint’s day is and also local regional food specialities.

Who wants to miss a good party?

 

 

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