Ancient origin of the celebration
Ferragosto, as it is called in Italy, was originally celebrated on the first of August. It was a day off from agriculture, as it corresponded to the end of the main farm work. The name comes from the Latin “Feriae Augusti”, which means “Augustus rest” and was first set on the 18 BC. The resting days were in fact much more than one: the holiday used to last even the whole month. On top of this, the 13th August was dedicated to the celebration of the goddess of the hunt, Diana.
Around the VII century, the Catholic Church decided to integrate this holiday into the Assumption celebration: according to Catholic religion, on the 15th August the Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul by the angels.
The festivities saw draught-animal races, as it was the only period in which they were not employed in agricultural work. On this occasion animals could even be dolled up with flowers, as it still happens during the “Palio di Siena”, the prize organised in Siena to celebrate the Virgin Mary Assumption.
Nowadays, “Ferragosto” is generally seen as the trip day, but this is a recent tradition: during the Fascist period, the government used to organise low-cost mass transports in order to allow all layers of population a getaway from everyday life.
In Northern Italy, it is not uncommon that friends go to the seaside and arrange barbecues. During the day, people throw water balloons to their friends and even to unaware pedestrians, whereas seaside resorts usually plan midnight fireworks.
Here at GSO we do not miss the opportunity of celebrating mid-August holiday at the sea: our school is less than one hour far from the best beaches of North-East Italy.