Ferragosto derives from the Latin Feriae Augusti, or feast in honor of Augustus: a pagan festivity. Ferragosto in fact was introduced by the first Roman emperor Augustus and originally coincided with the entire month of August. Even slaves were allowed to participate in all the feasts and banquets. An interesting little historical fact is that in the sixth century the Catholic Church wisely chose to Christianize this popular pagan festivity, and as a result August 15 became the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Nowadays ferragosto refers only to one day: August 15. It is THE big summer holiday for Italians. Everything is closed today, and there are religious processions all over the country. By the way, “andare in ferie” means “to go on holiday,” so the original meaning of the Latin feria has been preserved.
Stefano, with the help of many willing sous-chefs, prepared a huge feast for lunch today. A wonderful meal. We ended up eating for hours, with small but necessary rest periods. The meal ended with some delicious typical southern Italian mignon pastries (see photo), which just about sent me rolling under the table, more stuffed than a turkey at Xmas. Around 4 PM I finally said basta! and came upstairs to take a nap. I woke up at 5:30 PM. Yikes! Well, after all, I AM on holiday! 🙂