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giubiana Como
29 Jan

The traditional “Giubiana’s feast” in Como

There are many traditions in our area that now have been preserved for centuries and that probably come from our Celtic past. One of these is the feast of “Giubiana”.

Do you already know the “Giubiana”?

The Giubiana’s feast, with different names from area to area, it is a feast quite felt in northern Italy, especially in Piedmont and Lombardy. Giubiana seems that derives from the word “Thursday” that in the Piedmont’s dialect is “Giòbia”, while here we say “Giuedì”.
This ancient tradition tells us that, in a certain day of the cold season you have to light a fire that serves to drive winter away. This ritual is renewed every year in some Como’s campaign towns, usually on the last Thursday of January. With these fires that are lit in the town’s squares, it is burnt the “Giubiana”, a puppet made of rags and straw, with the features of an old woman or a witch that represents winter.

“Giubiana” in northern Italy

Tradition changes a bit throughout northern Italy, but it seems that the origin is common and that the name “Giubiana” comes from Jupiter (Thursday) and that it represented the country festivals that were organized every winter to influence positively the rebirth of nature, just at the time of sowing. In other northern areas, these fires are held slightly later (end of February and March), always with the aim to “drive out winter”, for example in Romagna, and they are called in a different way. The rural tradition and Celtic influences left a deep imprint on the Po Valley’s culture, with common features a distance of several kilometers.

The “Giubiana feast” near Como

In the Como’s area every year is celebrated the Giubiana’s day, through the lighting of a bonfire to exorcise the winter. It’s important to know that the character of Giubiana is very different from place to place. In all versions of the story there is an old woman or a witch that is scaring or eating children. And in the end the story is similar: in all versions of the legend in fact, the witch is deceived and children are saved. In one case, the scam happens thanks to a rice dish with saffron and sausage (known as Luganega). This very good dish distracted her, that forgot the arrival of the day and disappeared because of daylight. In other areas we find a young woman rather than an old one, for example, in Cantù, probably due to events related to the history of the city.

How does it work the “Giubiana” Feast?

As I told, this tradition, which is very old and is very much felt in the countryside, it has origins before to beginning of the Christian religion, and it was important because it aims to exorcise the winter and wish a good spring. The puppet is burned accompanied by dishes such as risotto with sausage or pork sausage and lentils (Cotechino), or tripe. The dinner varies from town to town but all is always  washed down with mulled wine. During the festival, all the community comes together and is often used to dance around the fire.
And you, have you ever attended to a Giubiana’s feast? We are closed at the end of Jenuary, but if it happens that you are near here you could go to Cantù or one of the other cities that celebrate this ancient ritual, to immerse yourself completely in the old Como’s country tradition. A greeting and a smile from all of us at Hotel Posta Moltrasio!

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

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