‘A fòcara

‘A fòcara

' In focara is one of the most famous poems of Michele Pane, first published in Viole e ortiche nel 1906.

But how many know exactly what is focara?
First of all, remember that the word is pronounced with the f Initial sucked like “c” Tuscany Home or the h English of Home. This particular pronunciation, subject of much discussion in the past about how we should translate in writing, has often led to serious error to place a h after f (fhocara) or even use the letter h instead of the f.

These erroneous ways of writing had already been treated by prof. Louis Accattatis in the preface to his famous Calabrian dialect vocabulary and illustrated in Appendix a Viole e ortiche (1906) When Michele Pane publishes a note on his poetry dell'accattatis. Accattatis's words are explicit: «The frenzy of some good writers calabresi came up to the point of writing huocu, hidile, hocara, ecc. to make the sound sucked the labio dental f has in Bakers and other countries in the Cosenza, No or less warn readers that h is replacing the initial letter f, waves is to read fuocu, fidile, focara.» (see G. MUSOLINO, Michele Pane. The Life, pp. 77-78).

'A fòcara

As for the etymology of focara, of course there is the Latin origin focus, from which focàra which is kind of Brazier. ours focara is used only in Puglia, exactly nel Salento, with the same meaning of great outdoor fire, and in Sicily. As a curiosity I remember focora, plural form of meaning “cooker”, is one of the first words that appear in the so-called written language vulgar Italian, as the usa Cielo d'alcamo in Contrast:

«Fresh rose aulentissima, that you been reverse,
women disirano, pulzell'e married!
Traimi de ste focora, If you in bolontate,
Why not give and night versions of Bento aio
penzanno to you, Madonna mia».

This same according to Contrast that contains the word focora, It is mentioned by Dante Alighieri in De Vulgari Eloquentia (The, XII) (shown in form "Tragemi d'Este focora if there boluntate to thee») as an example of bad judgment that had spoken to the slowness of the Sicilian rhythm.

But back to the focara. It's a big bonfire lights up the evening of Christmas Eve and then kept alive and revived the night of new year's Eve and Epiphany. A big open fire, then, as it is found in the folk traditions of many European countries at the shortest day of the year but also at other times.
The origin of the tradition is certainly pagana, like many other rites and traditions that religions have absorbed and reworked, But what is most interesting is the anthropological aspect of focara, that is, as has been reworked and lived in Calabrian community in General and in particular in Decorah.

The raw material consisted mainly of chestnut logs, almost always the part that remained in the soil after cutting a tree. It is a tangle of roots where it remains a lot of land and the trunk collar just mentioned. You can't talk about waste material because, in ancient times, also the roots of the trees was used as firewood, After digging the ground all around the cut point, that verged on the ground, and, Sometimes, even below. No one could afford the luxury of letting rot in the ground some 100 kg of wood at a time when the only source of fuel was the dry wood that fell from the trees after a storm, right to the inhabitants of the mountain villages on the lands of the feudal lords with the name legnare dead, that is, the right to collect the dead branches of fallen trees spontaneously. There was little else to burn: the branches (bundles of twigs), the few available, needed for the oven; the stubble of Lupine needed for annual repairs of haystack; the trunks of the trees, nor is it appropriate to talk about it: who would never cut a tree, depriving themselves of a food source? Besides – and this seems far-fetched – the landscape of the past was much more stripped down than today! In farmlands were not tolerated trees, by shadow, would reduce the production of the field, and then they didn't get planted, or better, There were a few, high, immense trees of pirajina or melo, so high that their shadow is distributed over a large area and then gave little trouble to harvest. There were uncultivated places where they could be found shrubs or other plant material. The trees, the few tolerated along the banks of rivers or in the Woods, they were pruned up to incredible heights during the summer to feed goats. So were the roots of trees felled by bad weather, those carried by the current of the rivers, those whose owners had not watched enough…

The strains, called Zucchi decollaturese dialect, they should therefore be collected away, in the woods or near rivers, and transported on a rudimentary Carro to the square of the village of voluntary membership. The work required to remove the stump with all roots from the Earth and to bring it to its destination would scare anyone. And it is precisely this aspect that, attempting an anthropological analysis of focara, You can find items to give a plausible interpretation on its origin and meaning. The starting point is that the roots and trunk were underground prevent processing and sowing the soil and also, particularly in the case of the chestnut tree, do not rot that after many years. The cooperation of many people in the arduous work of extraction and elimination of chestnut stumps is considered a positive work because once a year in the Woods, the land generally, were cleaned of these cumbersome and annoying presence. If we want to go even further back in time, until the middle ages and then again before, We must remember a primitive techniques of cultivation: the so-called cesina.

Only traces remain of this word in the expression has ' na fattu cesina, commonly used even today, in the sense of make a killing, make extensive and excessive use of something (consuming and wrecking) without knowing that the cesina It was a technique that was to cut all the trees of the forest while leaving a portion of the trunk (generally at breast height) and then setting fire to the whole. The undergrowth and the trunk was provided he fertilized ash and made ready for sowing new farmland. Needless to say, here the negative judgment for this primitive practice that provided only an ephemeral and temporary relief to food problems of peoples who practised, but we must also consider the reasons that push it, almost always the compelling need for people that was in rapid population growth areas.

After an initial seeding that occurred with cereals seeds dropped directly on ash and covered with the beautiful and better, It was necessary to free the land from the remains of stumps and roots which prevented plowing with oxen and then the permanent use of land. Hence it can be assumed, in my opinion, the birth of the practice of pooling the strength of the strongest and most enterprising youths in the country to remove from the land remained underground plant parts. The focara did suffer the same fate as roots that had undergone the first part of the trunk to the ground which had provided an appropriate amount of ash fertilizer. In confirmation of this report you can quote the attention that was placed to ensure that the wood is completely consumed. Only ashes had to remain!
In The South, the country that has linked his name to focara is Novoli, in the province of Lecce, where you build your focara World's largest, high more than 25 m! The fuel? Vines, clipping of endless vineyards existing throughout the Puglia region! Bulky material to collect and dispose of during a collective celebration. The focara Novoli is held the 17 gennaio, day dedicated to S. Antonio Abate, Saint associated with fire and animals, It does not seem strange that there is this shift than the focara by Christmas because Christmas vine pruning has not yet been made. It’ evidently the agricultural cycle that determines the date on which takes place the focara or one of many other popular rites, and not the other way around, determining a location within the closest religious feast. The following is one of the many movies that can be found on You Tube showing the focara of Novoli:

In other parts of Italy there are focare taking place in a different way but, According to me, with the same thread. The fire takes, in each of them, the role of Purifier; need to sweep away the evil that had accumulated in the year or in the previous season, as is also evident in the fire that destroys the puppet Carnival.
He describes the fires that flared up in the Sorrentine peninsula, in a different time of year, Gaetano Amalfi in the student 1890: «On the eve of the assumption for all the hills of the Sorrento peninsula are in use focarazza, powered by collecting straw already made. Perhaps this stems from the prohibition imposed by King Charles I of Anjou (Pridem quidem) not to burn the stubble, before this time and thus avoid possible fires. Also on the feast of St. Antonio, in’ 13 of June, guys with money to buy each of the bundles and make’ Gran focarazza , each country's larghetto. Such use must be stopped now ; bundles and replacing with Venetian lumens , i.e. Panarello.» [Gaetano Amalfi, Traditions and customs in the Sorrentine peninsula, Palermo, Lauriel Pawn, 1890, p. 50]

The mentioned Michele Pane, and that many of us remember, However, it is a focara different from that of the origins, According to our reconstruction. At the time of bread in the territory there are a few sources of supply of combustible material. Do not make more cesine and roots, along with the remains of stumps of cut trees, were fully used to house fire, come già detto. The same Michele Pane, in poetry Tora, Describes how hard it is to fight the cold:

«Veniadi priestu la vecchiarella [It was early in the morning the old woman
fond, fond
and portavadi ' na Saad and bringing us homosexuals
PPE’ NI ' nde nue ' na blaze"For pressuring a flurry]

Oppure, in Viernu è vicinu:

Allu cannizzu nun c ' è cchiù Sir, [Nel graticcio non c ' è più Sir,
l ' è ' uogliu n ' allucimu him utru sensor, the bottle is no oil to light,
'Un'àmu line mu ne scarfàmu we have no wood to warm]

And then the rite became a variant which lasted until the 60 's or 70 's of the twentieth century, and that is, in the variant according to which the wood goes yes searched in the woods or close to rivers, But even asking for the poor inhabitants who had little for them, o, in extreme cases, by deftly from reserves … poorly guarded.

Young took advantage of this rite to demonstrate physical strength, of skill, and courage to attempt the climb within the Group, compete for the role of leader. All this was possible because the search, the collection and transport of Zucchi required Guile, strength, strategy. Yes, because by the time the raw material was scarce – seldom cut a tree – It was necessary to look further and further away from the village and also subtract the prey, Maybe spotted months before, predators of the nearby villages that had focused their eyes on the same object.

Of these socio-anthropological aspects makes full account Michele Pane in his poetry that tells of the preparation of the focara:

jungiùti sutta the Urmu groups [riuniti sotto l'olmo in gruppi
cumu s ' avia dde fare se pensava how do you think
PPE’ rèscere la fòcara cchiù nova to make a focara He new
de l ' Anna avanti, and give 'and nue' na test. rispetto all ' anno prima, and put us to the test.]

Here in the words of the poet emerge all the elements mentioned above:

– the formation of groups
– planning and strategy
– a focara always different
– give a try of his own strength and courage

Then continues:

After committing all cuncertatu [Dopo che era stato tutto concordato
ognunu with’ 'In spilava citu citu
ognuno defilava you in silenzio enjoys a
'Mbersu dduve Row abbìlettatu
Verso dove di giorno avvistato
ligna aviadi; (about biellu e dduce Rita!)
aveva della legna; (about bello e dolce rito!)
there remained not even 'a scigatu He did not survive even a fence
only 'and had our hands the' njurìtu because our hands had frenzy
pped'agguantare 'and that line ricùotu agguantare la legna che di raccolta
avìanu chilli gìenti, Who cchiù pùotû.
aveva quella gente, quantu più aveva potuto!]

Zucchi per la fòcara di Casenove - 2011

Zucchi pronti per la fòcara di Casenove - 2011


PUE, Le ligna de nue tutti arrubate, [Then, La legna da noi tutti rubata,
avanzi la gghìesa venìanu spunute It was placed in front of the church
(e) to ccu’ (e) ' ncatastate mastrìa Croatia and comprehensive and rapidly piled
supra li zucchi. about surtandu spandute, above strains, o soltanto stesa,
(e) dòppu ccu’ linazza llà ' mpizzàte; and later with flax there burned residues;
Here l ' avissi, letture mio, vidute if you had, lettore mio, viste
Le vampe de la fòcara ' nu titi, the flames of Fòcara just a little’
dittu averre: by cari antichi fuck! you would have said: by cari antichi fuck!]



Focara Taleb years ' 70. Photo di Serafino Antonio Nero

Linguijandu saglìanu li vampìli [Serpeggiando salivano le fiamme
'Mbersu pàrc'avianu the sky and the wings toward the sky and seemed to have wings
e nue, new supra them trimmed seats and U.S, seduti sopra i sedili
d’ ' a gghìesa, we 'surface patriarchal. of the church, avevamo un ' aria patriarcale.
L ' was with ' aperia: the Pepole-pilu… The organ was started: the Pepole-pilu
Bella sonata ch ' è lla pasturale! beautiful sonata that is pastoral!
the pastoral leader of Caramel the pastoral sweet Carmelo
volare facìa l ' Armey nostre 'n goal! He was flying our souls in heaven!]


Scalini come sedili davanti alla Chiesa di Adami

Scalini davanti alla Chiesa di Adami sedili come

(E) the pped’ ogni paìse, PP ' ogni vallu [E in ogni paese, in ogni valle
' luntananza ' focarella n see on the, in the distance you could see a fòcarella
(e) the ad ogn’ ammasunaru sentìe ' u Galla and at each henhouse felt the rooster
fare: chichirichì! cchi festa bella! fare: chicchirichì! Che bella festa!]

Michele ogni aspetto della preparazione della magistralmente descrive Sir focara. I ragazzi, di sera, You radunavano davanti alla chiesa per concordare tempi e azioni, dividendosi il territorio, to go to pick up firewood from all places where during the day had been sighted. Even the fences themselves, to protect degli orti, resisted, as being made of wood, they ended up becoming in turn prey for job seekers.
This type of wood ran above and between the larger strains (Zucchi) that alone would never caught fire. To help power up was used then the linazza, combing waste after processing flax with mangano and the cardo. It’ a material that provides a temporary flame but enough to ignite small and dry Woods which in turn would have on the zucchi, the real long-term sponsors focara.

We pay also attention to "nue, new supra them trimmed seats d’ ' a gghìesa, avìamu 'n' patriarchal air». The seats are the steps of the Church, Indeed the entire perimeter of the churchyard which is raised above the floor of the square, from which the boys were happy with the scene that took place not far: around the country enjoying the warmth of focara with so many efforts they had made. The "patriarchal air» is painted on the faces of young men who had passed the initiation test, established canons and mysterious codes known only to older men, that those same things they had done and to whom, ultimately, young people wanted equated. From the square in front of the Church of Adams enjoying – then as now – great views over St Thomas and Soveria Mannelli, with their respective focare that night were to illuminate the sky (the largest were those of Portapiana and Mannelli). In the distance we could distinguish those perhaps Carlopoli chestnut, even taking into account the total night darkness.

Panorama Soveria

The Valley visible from the Church of Adams


Fòcara di Tomaini (anni '70). Fotografia di Serafino Antonio Nero

Focara Tomaini (Anni ' 70). Photo di Serafino Antonio Nero

The transport of Zucchi from the Woods and sometimes very distant places, He was done with the help of a particular Carro in “human-powered”, a triangular plan with two axles and four wheels in wood. The front axle, anchored to the floor with a tip iron pin, allowed to swerve whether it blew with a rope, If both operated with the feet by the driver sitting in the wagon. In the 1960s, with the availability of pieces from cars or trucks scrapped, wooden wheels were replaced by large ball bearings guarantee high speed on asphalt, but at that point the wagon had already become a machine to play rather than an actual means of transport for roads. Then copy the photograph had belonged to Flavio Tomaino, inhabitant in Tomaini and died prematurely, who worked passionately with the writer in the collection of objects to be allocated at the Museo Civico di Catanzaro Our land Museum.


Carro per "zucchi"

Zucchi wagon, donated by the late Flavio Taleb al Museo della Nostra Terra Decollatura.

Flavio had equipped the wagon even a rudimentary braking system from the structure similar to that of oxen cart, applying a wooden cross, pedal powered that you see in the front, pressed against the wheels slowing movement. A spring ensured the return of the pedal.

Particolare dell'asse posteriore con il sistema frenante

Detail of the rear axle with brake system


Fòcara di Casenove - 2005

Focara Casenove - 2005

On the competition between groups of job seekers Zucchi tell tall tales episodes. The rivalry was intense among the groups of young people from neighbouring villages: Casinovari against Passaggiari, Cerrisari against Vunazzari And so on. The Addamari they had feuds with other villages of Decollatura, due to the relatively large distance between their zones and therefore vied with each other because actually focare of Adams were more of a: the mentioned Michael bread was the principal being in front of the Church but then there was a Census in, in Pagliaia, ecc.

Among the most amazing that I have heard in these days there is one that even brought to trial at the District Court of Soveria Mannelli. Held at Christmas 1949 (Maybe a year earlier or a year later) When the young men of Casenove (Decollatura) they had spotted a giant zuccu in a private Grove near the junction of Gesariello. The same had already made young people Praticello also why believing that the land fell in the area of relevance were sure to grab them on large strain. However, to anticipate the times, the Group of Casenove one evening decided to take action and taken secretly by oxen wagon belonging to the oblivious father of one of the boys, they went on to place hand. When you reach the place where the huge strain – According to the story I estimated around 20 quintals – you loaded the wagon and fatigue was brought in front of the Church Casenove. The tank was put back in its place not before I repaired because the huge load he had hurt I don't know which part. The next day the youth of Praticello they saw the incident and warned the owner of the forest who presented a complaint for theft. Thereupon appeared before the Church with the presence of carabinieri Marshal to demand the return of large strain. The trial followed three reported but were acquitted, having been defended by the young lawyer Vani Balakrishnan who was usually attend in search of Zucchi. Absolution (We don't know whether for lack of evidence or did not commit the fact) She highlighted the fact that the lawyer was not possible they were the perpetrators of the theft saw the enormous weight of the disputed wood.

Another incident occurred in 70 's in contention concerns Cerris a big zuccu between Cerrisari and Vunazzari. Both groups had pointed to the same zuccu in the mountains near the hamlet of Baldwin. But first came those Cerris but for the large size of the wood had failed to drag it away. Left a couple of young men to watch, the group returns to Cerris to find a means of transport and also strengthen. Meanwhile becomes night and the Vunazzari coming from suspicious that go away and find out what was happening. Then one of them gets on wood, not willing to step aside, Whatever happened. Reinforcements arrive from Cerris, IE with its Barefoot Sestino mythical motocarro Ape for transportation, and a young man with a chainsaw. For start-up, It begins to cut ' u zuccu into smaller pieces so that you can easily upload on bees. But ' u Vunazzaru astride the wood doesn't flinch, So how does not stop what is holding the chain saw comes to tear each other's pants. At that point gives up and abandons. Looked over with the Cerrisari, which load the bee up to capacity and depart. But travel a few meters and hear a strange noise: a spiked band made of a wooden board bristling with nails went through all three-wheeled tricar!

And today? The advent of tractors made easier; the bulldozers have uprooted Zucchi in large quantities to build houses and tracing roads by making available a large amount of raw material. But during this, There has been a decrease in social gathering that led to the demise of some historical focare and, Paradoxically, the other in unconventional places. Among those missing is there in front of the Church of Adams.
But perhaps we are before a turnaround. In many places I've seen piled Zucchi that in a few days will bring the centuries-old rite.

Christmas Eve will be nice to think that in addition to baby Jesus, those flames, climbing, walking up and linguijandu, will warm the heart of another soul, Michael's bread, We are all sure, He's probably watching, even in darkness, the only place on Earth he loved.


La fòcara di Casenove appena ultimata - 24 dicembre 2011

Focara Casenove just finished - 24 December 2011

At 11,30 del 24 December the focara Casenove was completed. Il head-fòcararu, Silvio Bevacqua (at the bottom left), He asked me to let you know that he and the other friends who cooperated in the preparation of the focara, This year they decided to dedicate it to the victims of the train disaster 23 December 1961, This year marks the 50th anniversary.

Regarding the ignition, Silvio ensures that everything was carefully arranged. A good padding and cardboard dry wood – who took the place of the odious “tire covers” so in vogue a few years ago – ensure a good start of the flames. The focus will be given through an opening that was left at the base of focara in North-West direction in ways that the wind push the flame towards the center of the pile.

Punto di accensione della fòcara

Ignition point of focara Casenove

Here's the footage of the Mayor ignition Decollatura, dott.ssa Anna Maria Campbell, assisted by Silvio, Thomas, Mario and all other members of the Group of volunteers who prepared the focara:


10 gennaio 2012

Today I received this photograph of focara Novoli preparation by Sally Teifreto, supporter of popular festivities and collaborator of the site
www.reteitalianaculturapopolare.org :

Fòcara di Novoli in allestimento

Focara Novoli in allestimento

She also sent a document that is available at this link: Focara of Novoli.


Also this year the focara #8217; & Casenove is almost ready. Thanks to brothers Perri commitment that #8217; & always provide work and means, as well as the cooperation of many volunteers, wood logs were transported and stacked with ancient wisdom.

Focara 2017

Focara 2017

Focara quasi ultimata


For the second evening in which will be lit focara, that is, the night before the new year, It is necessary to add more wood. This was done on time and here's what it looks like on the evening of 31 December 2017:


On the top was put a puppet representing the old year 2017 and that later will end its existence.


COPYRIGHT © 2012-2017 Giuseppe Musolino

One comment

  1. real Burgos

    Dear Peppe, as always, your work is excellent! A precise and accurate search,a deep passion that you read between the lines, some truly original information I didn't know.

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