Assumption Day on 15th August is when all Italy, or so it seems, stops work to celebrate.
What Italians are actually celebrating on that day is actually quite interesting because the festival has elements of both the ancient and Christian worlds.
The term Ferragosto is derived from the Latin expression Feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest), which is a celebration introduced by the emperor Augustus in 18 BC. The present Italian name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti, “Festivals or Holidays of the Emperor Augustus”.
The popular tradition of taking a trip during Ferragosto arose during Fascism. In the second half of the 1920s, during the mid-August period, the regime organized hundreds of popular trips through the Fascist leisure and recreational organizations, and via the setting up of the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto”, which were available at discounted prices. The initiative gave the opportunity to less well-off citizens to visit Italian cities or to reach seaside and mountain resorts. The offer was limited to the 13th, 14th and 15th August, and comprised two options: the “One-Day Trip”, within a radius of 50-100 km, and the “Three-Day Trip” within a radius of about 100–200 km. For many families, it was only during these trips that they saw the sea, mountains, and Italy’s many artistic marvels for the first time. Moreover, since the trips did not include food, the connected tradition of the packed lunch arose.
The Roman Catholic Church celebrates this date to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the actual physical elevation of her sinless soul and incorruptible body into Heaven. Before the Church came into existence, however, this holiday also included honoring of gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening, during the time of the Roman Empire.
- Celebrating August in the Italian Language (becomingitalianwordbyword.typepad.com)
- Italy Magazine – The August 15th holiday most notable celebrations by region