History of Ferragosto (Festival of August) in Italia

Started During the Roman Empire in 18 BC


What is Ferragosto?

          Next to Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s, Ferragosto is one of the  most celebrated holidays in Italy. This unusual Italian holiday  traditionally takes place on August 15th and you can pretty much bet  that most businesses are going to be closed as Italians head to the  mountains, lakes, and beaches for some rest, relaxation, and an escape  from the summer’s heat.

          The holiday is routed in ancient history, going back to the beginning  of the Roman Empire, when in 18BC, the emperor Augustus declared that  the month of August, named after himself, would be dedicated to the  Feriae Augusti (Festival of Augustus). This month long festival of food,  wine, and celebration honored the goddess Diana, the virgin goddess of  the hunt and moon. The month of August also honored the gods Vortumnus  (god of the seasons, change, and plant growth) and Opeconsiva (goddess  of plating and the crops). These two gods were worshiped to ensure that  there would be a fruitful season and good weather to make certain that  the harvest would be bountiful.

          Diana was also the goddess of maternity, and the 15th of August was  the most important day of the month long festival. The ancient Roman  holiday was a celebration of maternity and fertility, whether it was in  the fields with their abundant crops or in the bedroom with lots of  (male) children to carry on the family line. Other days in August, such  as the 13th and 25th, included elaborate religious rituals in honor of  the pagan roman gods to ensure both fertile fields and fertile wives.

          In Christianity, August is believed to be the month in which the  Virgin Mary rose to heaven. The Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma  that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthy life,  was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This doctrine was  dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1,  1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. Christians  turned to and prayed to The Virgin Mother to intercede on their behalf  for a good harvest and an abundant crop.

          Now the modern holiday is a time of rest and relaxation where the  entire country slows down and Italians enjoy their summer holidays.  August is also the hottest month of the year so Italians generally flee  their cities for the cooler countryside. The religious aspects of the  holiday coincide with the ancient origins to many Italians who see this  as a time of rest, relaxation and beating the heat.

Ferragosto being celebrated in Italy

Ferragosto being celebrated in Italy