Traditions in Orgosolo and Alghero

Orgosolo: paintings and traditions

Orgosolo is a charming village at the foot of Mount Lisorgoni, located in one of the most suggestive foresty territories of Sardinia.  This small village in the province of Nuoro is known at an international scale for its beautiful murales, these are paintings on the walls of houses which were initially introduced in the mid 1970s as a social protest. The murales in fact depict the struggles, denunciations and conquests of a village community and a country. The many denunciations include the Spanish Civil war, the 1st world war massacre in Caporetto led by the General Cadorna (in via Cadorna) , though the more recent murales  simply represent idyllic portraits of village and country life.

Changing subject but not location, in Orgosolo, on the 31st of December, the traditional “Sa Candelaria” celebration takes place.“ Sa Candelaria” is a children’s celebration in which all children leave home early in the morning and walk along the streets with a bag made of cloth on their shoulders. The children go from door to door asking for bread made specifically for the occasion, together with fruit and cakes. From the crack of dawn to midday one can hear the endless chanting of “a nolla dazes sa candelaria?” (“can you give us some candelaria?”) basically a Sardinian “trick or a treat, without the trick. Alas, I haven’t been able to discover the meaning of Candelaria.
Each family offers the children “sos cocònes”(a typical bread of the area), fruit, biscuits, sweets, toys (!) and the odd coin. The Sa Candelaria party goes on in the evening, as adults go out in groups and sing well wishing songs to all the newly weds that have married in the course of the year.
“Cocòne” is the bread  made at home by some groups of women a few days immediately before the 31st December. The bread is made with flour, water, yeast and lard and follows a very long process. It is eventually broken into small balls the size of an orange which are left to rise to be then rolled flat into discs  and are called “sa tundìna”. The “sa tundina” are left to rise yet again amongst woollen, linen or canopy (pànnos de ispica) towels, and are then placed in the oven. The children will be given a quarter – or even two quarters – of the entire “tundìna”, in other words a “cocòne”.


The Signum Judicii in Alghero
In the Alghero Cathedral, on the night of Christmas Eve  an absolutely beautiful Medieval hymn called “Signum Judicii” or “Señal del Judici”, also known as “canto della Sibilla”(the song of the Sibyl, a prophetess)  is sung. The atmosphere is wonderfully evocative and mystical as the entire church is in the dark and the hymn is sung in Catalan and foretells the birth of Jesus. At this point the Cathedral comes alive with light.
This is  a tradition  which is thousands of years old, it dates all the way back to 1200 and was widespread in  the whole Catalonia area: In the past, during the singing of the hymn a choirboy would hold a sword, representing the holy justice and another choirboy held a sceptre which symbolised the Church Authority. This magical ancient custom has only been preserved in Alghero and in Palma di Majorca.

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