Ha! Just when you thought those lovely golden brown italian xmas breads were long gone and done with. Not so on February 3rd, the feast day of San Biagio (Saint Blaise in english). Since time immemorial, in observation of italian custom and tradition, remaining panettone from last Christmas makes a comeback on this day. Why, exactly, is beyond me. San Biagio is not the patron saint of panettone bakers, but of wool carders and farm animals among other things. He is also the protector of nose and throat illnesses. A milanese proverb says:
“San Bias el benediss la gola e el nas” – [San Biagio blesses the throat and nose.]
Legends surrounding San Biagio’s miraculous powers are many, but my favorite is one that involves a child who swallows a fish bone and is choking to death. By invoking the saint, the child spits out the fish bone and is saved. Well, not to make light of the situation, but I can’t help thinking of all the stupid things that kids stick in their noses as well!
Unfortunately we do not have anything really special planned for San Biagio’s feast day but elsewhere around the peninsula, he is honored in various ways. In Taranta Peligna, Abruzzo, the townsfolk make panicelle, a flat, squarish bread resembling four fingers representative of the saint’s hand. Here’s a snippet of the clip: