Every January a curious tradition takes place in Southern Italy, The Bonfires of San Antonio!
In local jargon it is called the “Fócara di Sant’Antonio“. For the people of Puglia, it is a mix of religion and pagan rite going back centuries. The legend recounts that during an especially dark and cold winter, local peasants prayed fervently to San Antonio for warmth and comfort. The benevolent saint, hearing their prayers, paid a visit to the devil’s lair and returned with a burning torch that the locals used to light the mountain like piles of olive tree clippings left over from the pruning done every January.
Today, villagers will gather up even old wooden furnishings from their homes that they want to throw out for the new year and add them to the giant pyre. This year, in late January, the 3 to 4 story high bonfires will be lit and all will come out to enjoy the spectacle with plenty of wine, music and dancing in the usual Pugliese fashion!