The traditional feast of Le Farchie originated by a miracle through the intercession of St. Anthony during the French invasion of Abruzzo in 1799. At that time, the small village of Fara Filiorum Petri was protected by a large oak trees wood that stretched up to cover the entire neighbourhood of Colle Selva. Marching from Bucchianico to Guardiagrele, the French army wanted to occupy and conquer Fara Filiorum Petri but the apparition of St. Anthony in the guise of a mighty general stopped them. The saint rebuked the troops not to cross the forest and the oak trees became immense burning torches preventing the soldiers from moving forward. Every year on January 16th the village celebrates that glorious victory, praying St. Anthony to protect the local community against any danger.
The lightning of Le Farchie happens every year on 16th January but it is the last step of a long preparation process usually starting soon after Christmas when each village district (or contrada) organizes itself to collect the reeds. There is a great rivalry between the neighbourhoods because each building team boasts secret places for finding and collecting the canes. It is said that the teams use to steal the reeds collected from other districts, therefore they are often kept indoors and guarded during the days and nights before the celebration takes place. On the week before the event all the districts are in turmoil from morning until late at night. Everybody works hard to build the <em>farchie</em>, obviously each day ends up with eating and drinking wine together. Big fires are lit to warm up the chilly nights, around them the community strengthens its emotional, social and cultural ties by telling stories and happily playing music together.
I personally experienced Le Farchie many times in my life, always trying to mix with the locals. The prep week is truly a special opportunity I can hardly describe in words: to visit the districts at work, observe their secret ancestral rites, share their food and stories, chat with the ladies in the kitchens, I was always blessed with the emotional impact lying behind this popular festa. This traditional event has a primordial charm worth living at least once.
You may like to know that Abruzzo4foodies can tour you around during Le Farchie celebration though this is possible only once a year, namely on the weekend prior to January 16th. The tour, carried out in English, is an extraordinary dive into Abruzzo cultural dimension, allowing participants to live Le Farchie among the locals sharing a special time of food and tradition in Fara Filiorum Petri. To ensure you live an absolutely unique experience please contact us via the blog, we will be happy to arrange a special day for you!
(Many thanks to Sandro D’Orazio and Albireo Imago Fotografia for photo credits, please visit his photo gallery for more stunning photos of Le Farchie. Special thanks to Serena Di Fulvio for being my personal Farchie guide some years ago).
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