The winter rituals of the transition to the new year in Casentino

The project was born with a piece of research (then published) from which it took the process. The ECA has promoted and enhanced reflection moments, exchange with other contexts, promotion and communication (seminars, exhibitions, meetings in schools)

Museum: Ecomuseo del Casentino
Years: A coordinated project has been started since 2015

Ecomuseo del Casentino

The preservation and transmission of the intangible heritage represent the key of the activities of the Ecomuseo del Casentino (ECA). The guidelines of the Ecomuseum network itself, which involves sixteen poles distributed in the twelve municipalities of the upper Arno River Valley, report:

'The Ecomuseo del Casentino is a permanent non-profit institution, open to the public, which through the direct involvement of the inhabitants, promotes and works for the preservation, conservation, interpretation, enhancement and transmission of the landscape, historical-cultural, productive, ethnographic heritage of the first valley of the Arno River, in its material and immaterial manifestations, in order to promote sustainability.'

Concerning to this, the ECA proposes different kinds of activities:

  • educational didactic activities for local schools,
  • workshops on manual crafts with the involvement of tourists,
  • collaboration with universities for communication activities and revitalisation of traditional local knowledge,
  • support and promotion for local craftsmanship (wood, stone, iron, wool),
  • tutoring and support for local associations engaged in the transmission of particular forms of intangible heritage.

The ECA widely collaborates with the Casentino Mediateca for the "Memory Bank" project which led to the creation of a video-digital archive dedicated to material culture, popular traditions, stories and tales of 20th century ( in which, together with research and documentation works, restitution and co-planning activities are proposed (The memory in the square We are the heritage).

Furthermore, the ECA is the promoter of the creation of an "Atlas of the Intangible Heritage of Casentino and Valtiberina" - a project related to the National Strategy for the development of Internal Areas - which will start in 2018 with the direct participation of schools and some (well trained) young people of the territory, with the collaboration of the administrations and associations of the areas and the consultancy of the University of Florence and SIMDEA. The aim of the project is the activation of a participative-educational process with inclusive modalities that involves citizens, starting from the schools, in the construction of a participative inventory of the intangible heritage inspired by the UNESCO 2003 Convention.

Moreover, ECA is one of the promoters of the 'community of practice' of the Italian Ecomuseums, MONDI LOCALI, which is also involved in the definition of a network and in drafting a law at national level. In this context, some initiatives such as participative censuses and community maps have been tested. This last tool, also used for the activation or re-motivation of Ecomuseum processes, has proved to be particularly effective in identifying the local material and immaterial heritage (capacitation) and in defining specific projects for the promotion and transmission of some aspects of the heritage itself (production chains, traditional knowledge...).

The winter rituals of the transition to the new year in Casentino

Description of the project / practice / program

Many ritual experiences covered by the project take place round about the traditional date, January 6.

The night of the Epiphany represents a special night in many European traditions. It is the last of the twelve nights of the winter holiday cycle, which runs from December 25 to January 6, a period linked in people's minds to different legendary figures, the result of cultural stratifications and elaborations occurred over the centuries in which it is possible to find a series of elements which come from different cults and rituals. During this twelfth night in a lot of places in Europe many and different ritual actions take place, in which there are some constant elements, including the wandering of masked figures and a propitiatory exchange with them by members of the human communities (M. Magistrali, quella d'anno se la conoscete. Ritualità tradizionali itineranti in Casentino. Unione dei Comuni Montani del Casentino 2012).

In the same way, traditional events take place also in Casentino during the Epiphany. The ritual takes the form of an itinerant questua (offertory), in which a group of people in disguise (children in the villages of Badia Prataglia and Soci) wanders around the country, goes from home to home, while singing and playing music in some cases, making wishes for a better year.

The ECA, with the support of ethno-musicologists, has promoted a participative path which included different levels:

  • self-recognition of the value of these cultural expressions by the proponents themselves, trying to avoid easy tourism promotion operations indifferent to a "self-centered" structure,
  • cultural support and tutoring to the communities involved in the transmission and renewal actions of the traditional product that, respecting the cutural origin, will be able to look for innovation and a creative dimension,
  • facilitations for intergenerational transmission through the implementation of particular actions: meetings and workshops with local schools, realisation of photographic exhibitions with the involvement of young photographers of the area,
  • promotion of exchange and comparison moments both at local and extra-territorial level. Since 2016, opportunities for mutual acceptance and debate and comparison meetings with other Tuscan and non-Tuscan realities have been created between the different groups. During these events the specifics are highlighted but the awareness of the common cultural roots is consolidated too.

The aim of this work will be the strengthening, starting from this particular issue of the 'Heritage Community' (Council of Europe, 2005) of the area, as an opportunity for intergenerational and intercultural transmission of knowledge, skills and meanings related to the territorial heritage (material, immaterial, cultural and natural ones) and becoming aware of its preservation and promotion.

The project, indeed, represents a first experimentation in the context of a more general creation process of the 'Atlas of the Intangible Heritage' that I mentioned at the beginning of my report.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

Seven different groups are currently involved, the same number of the villages in the Valley which are active in the conservation/transmission of these particular social practices (itinerant questue (offertories), forms of popular theater,...).

The realities involved are:

  • I Vecchioni di Montemignaio
  • I Vecchioni di Cetica (Castel San Niccolà)
  • Il carro della befana della Banda di Bibbiena
  • La Befana dei Rioni di Soci (Bibbiena)
  • La cena vecchia di Badia Prataglia (Poppi)
  • Il Chiù Chiù di Chitignano
  • Il Befanone di Moggiona (Poppi)

The activities, coordinated by the ECA, are carried out with participative methods through meetings and the sharing and co-planning of the actions to be proposed. Each year, in the month of December (each time in a different location), a seminar is organised in which groups and traditions of other territorial contexts are invited to participate to stimulate and motivate local groups in view of the January event.

In short, the Ecomuseum has gradually assumed a reference role regarding this issue at a local level. It is a catalyst for the energies and projects that arise from the individual communities and at the same time, a tool through which the inhabitants themselves, even those not directly involved, recognise the value and cultural dignity of these forms of intangible cultural heritage. At the same time, this activity has contributed to the growth of the authority and recognition of ECA itself. To confirm this, other groups have tried to promote and enhance similar projects related to particular cultural expressions (for example, the revival of a form of popular theater: "Il Bruscello" in Casalino and Moggiona)

CV of the author

Andrea Rossi (IT), architect, works on local development and on projects of valorization of the historical and cultural heritage. He is the coordinator of the Ecomuseum of Casentino for the Unione dei Comuni Montani del Casentino, since 2005. The Ecomuseum is divided in sixteen antennas spread all over the valley. In this area, he develops activities of socio-cultural animation and the valorization of material and immaterial heritage in close contact with local communities. Rossi is one of the founders of LOCAL WORLDS, community of practice of the Ecomuseums, and among the promoters of the National Network of Ecomuseums.



22 March 2018 from 15:47 to 15:47



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