To be honest, nothing much. We can list some typical January stuff that you will all be familiar with; everyone has solemnly vowed to start a diet after the ravenous banqueting of the Christmas period – we need to shed at least 15 kgs (you wish!)….and then oh, the sales have started and it’s a rush to the nearest and not so near shopping centres, in order to buy THAT dress we were drooling over at a 95% discount! To sum it up, we are basically all relieved to get back to our everyday lives, because it gets to be a bit much after a month. Heard it all before right?
So maybe a better question would be “what’s old?”….and that is far more interesting and pertinent to our area. In these small mountain towns and their surrounding hamlets, old traditions are firmly rooted, they are part of the culture. Since modern times were slow in climbing up the hill and filtering into our valleys, our ancestors kept a firm grip on their age-old habits, and instead of abandoning them in favour of new-fangled ways of living, they made the past merge into the present. An example?
On the 13th of January, in some parts of this area, the mountain population still celebrates the Tresendì recurrence, a very antique custom which traces its origins back to 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII announced a change of calendar (the Gregorian reform). Apparently, the time of that year did not correspond to astronomical calculations; it appeared that they were all of 11 days behind. Hence, with the Enciclica Inter gravissimas dated February 24th 1582, Pope Gregory proclaimed that, having gone to bed on the night of October 4th, they would all awake the following morning to October 15th! This corrective measure, in addition to an accurate distribution of leap years, brought about a successful realignment.
But whilst most of Europe, and indeed Italy, were celebrating New Years Day according to this “modern” calendar, the inhabitants of Groppo and some of the neighbouring hamlets (Montegroppo and Tombeto) continued to follow the Julian calendar – 11 days late, which then became 13 days compared to the rest of Europe, when it was finally decided to comply to the new system.
So it makes sense to presume that the current tradition of celebrating January 13th – tresendì – a dialectal distortion of the word meaning thirteenth day, is a reminder of the passage between the two calendars, and of the previous system. There is no real proof to this theory, but it seems to be quite likely. But what do the celebrations consist of? And here is where another deeply rooted custom comes in – the Filossu – something which probably happened (and still happens) in many rural cultures. Big get-togethers amongst family, friends and neighbours, in order to chat and eat whatever the land was offering them at any given moment. In January, there is an abundance of chestnut flour, used to make frisö – delicious sweet fritters, and there are plenty of apples and onions to make either sweet or savoury pancakes, as well as lard to fry them all in. Basically a big fry-up, for the joy of young and old!
And as always, history mingles with folklore; it is a typical popular belief amongst farmers and mountain people that the first 12 days of the year give us an indication of the kind of weather we can expect for the following 12 months. Each day represents a month, and the climatic conditions which will occur in that month. These 12 days are called the Calende, and the tresendì marks the end of them. Again, there is no scientific proof of this, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But there is no doubt that behind our ancestors’ popular beliefs, there was always more than a grain of wisdom.
So, we were saying…..what’s new?