Well this isn’t the first – and certainly won’t be the last – time attending what for us has become a sort of ritual passage from the depths of winter and on to the promise of spring. Represented in a lifelike form or not, the Gibiana was born out of long ago tradition and is symbolic of the cold dark season and everything associated with it. Burning the Gibiana in a great falò (bonfire) exorcises the negative aspects of the previous year and ensures a clean slate. Typically these events are held on the last Thursday of January, but the practice has also been adapted to fall on the last weekend of the month.
It’s easy to see how the pagan/christian theme comes into play when there’s a human-like form in flames at the top of the fire, and I’ve read enough online opinions to know that not everyone sees eye to eye on this. At Montevecchia this past Sunday, the bonfire was much more diplomatic? In lieu of an effigy, strips of colored paper were distributed onto the pile of wood (as being done by the woman above). On those pieces of paper were ‘fears’ or ‘worries’ that the children in attendance had previously written down.
Another thing I liked about this event was that it was held at 5 in the afternoon instead of 8 or 9 at night. January can be so icy in the evening (in fact, the last 3 days of the month are said to be the coldest although that’s another story here) and these Gibiana observances can take up to an hour or more depending on how each town celebrates it.