Tomorrow is Ferragosto, a national holiday in Italy and a day that marks the peak of Italian summer. All over the country families will be celebrating with lunches – usually picnics or barbecues – and beach games, fireworks and dancing. No other Italian holiday lasts as long as Ferragosto. Although technically it is celebrated on 15th August it can actually last a week or two, or even the entire month of August, for some citizens.
Ferragosto has its roots in the festivals of the Emperor Augustus, back in 18BC. The Feriae Augusti were part of a period of festivities to celebrate the end of the grain harvests. It is also a significant day in the Catholic calendar; the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The popular tradition of taking a trip at Ferragosto was introduced by the Fascist regime in the 1920s and reinforced by subsidized travel for workers. One hundred years later, in spite of globalization and the connected world in which we live, it is still an accepted fact that most businesses will close for at least two weeks around Ferragosto and that many employees will be expected to take their holidays during this period. Factories close, professionals shut their offices and expectations of any kind of efficiency are inevitably suspended since even staff in banks and post-offices are decimated. Tomorrow signs inscribed with the words “Chiuso per Ferie” – shut for holidays – will be propped up in shops and offices all over the country.
Buon Ferragosto – the most Italian of holidays!