Italian Tradition - Almond Blossom Festival
The almond blossom festival is a popular festival in the city of Agrigento which, as tradition dictates, is repeated every year at the beginning of March and lasts about a week. The goal is to celebrate the arrival of spring with the flowering of almond trees and to rejoice in the return of life. Numerous folk groups come to Agrigento from all over the world to take part. In fact, over the years, the festival has increased its cultural significance by sending messages of peace to all populations.
The event begins with a visit, at sunset, to the Valley of the Temples and continues with the lighting of the "torch of friendship" in front of the temple of Concordia. The most important event of the festival takes place during the closing, when folk groups parade with Sicilian carts and musical bands from the city to the Valley of the Temples. In addition, a final artistic performance is always held at the foot of the temple of Concordia while you can attend the ceremony of awarding the Golden Temple which is delivered by an international jury to the groups that have danced and sung better and to those who have the best traditional costume.
Every year several other collateral initiatives are organized, such as "miss primavera", which rewards the most beautiful girl among the various groups and the most beautiful, flowered balcony of the Via Atena, the main street of Agrigento. In addition, new prizes have recently been awarded, such as that of "Gian Campione" and "Casesa", two pillars of Agrigento folklore that died a few years ago. Another trophy, the "Criscenzo", is delivered during the festival of the children of the world.
In the period in which the festival takes place, exhibitions and tastings of the almond are also held with the aim of advertising this typical Sicilian product.
The Myth of The Almond Tree in Bloom
The myth, written by Homer, tells of the flowering of the almond tree. It would be connected to the love story of Acamante and Fillide. The first went to fight the Trojan War on the side of the Achaeans. During the ten years of the war, Fillide did not stop waiting for his beloved but, once he conquered the city of Troy and ended the war, the Greeks began to return home. Among the survivors who returned there was no Acamante and Fillide began to think that he had died in the war. Therefore, not seeing him return, the princess died desperate because she was left without her beloved.
The goddess Athena, touched by the death of Fillide, decided to make it an almond tree. Acamante, however, was slow to return to the ship for a blockage and, when he learned of the death of his beloved and the fact that he was an almond tree, he went to the mast and embraced it. Thus, the almond blossomed, as if he wanted to hold it to himself.
The Festival appears for the first time in 1937 in Naro. It was the realization of a dream of Count Alfonso Gaetani, who ardently desired it to introduce people to the typical Sicilian products. All this takes place at a time of year when the climate is mild, even if it is not yet spring, and the landscape is the spring one characterized by almond trees that show everyone their splendid fruit. Still the Festival is regularly celebrated in Naro in the same period of Agrigento, preserving its folkloristic origin.
In 1941 it has an interruption, due to the fact that the Second World War is being fought. The festival resumed in 1948 and from now on it is held every year with a certain regularity and with forms characterized by a number of events that increases with the passage of time.
In 2020 it has another interruption, both in Naro and Agrigento, due to the COVID-19 emergency new coronavirus that broke out in Italy in mid-February. Since 1954 the festival also sees the unfolding of the international folklore festival, a show that pushes various folk groups of the place and the whole of Europe to travel to take part. Since 1966 these groups are not only local and European, but also come from other parts of the world. Since 1956, after being performed for the first time, the traditional lighting of the tripod of friendship is repeated every year. In addition, in 1966, the festival was suddenly interrupted because it was struck by the dramatic event of the landslide in Agrigento. In 2011, during the sixty-six edition of the Sagra and during the "Cubaita della Concordia" festival, a group of pastry chefs created the longest nougat that has ever existed, with a length of 660 meters. For the preparation, 1500 kilos of almonds and 1000 kilos of sugar were served. The dessert is then shown to the public in front of the temple of Concordia, the place where the organizer Giovanni Parisi and the coordinator of the team of pastry chefs who made it are awarded, and this almond becomes part of the catalog of the "Guinness World Records". ]A cubaita della Concordia", wants through the almond a typical product of the province of Agrigento to unite virtually all the countries of the Mediterranean.
In fact, "cubaita" has Arab origins; comes from the term "qubbiat" which means (almond), while the word nougat comes from the Spanish turrar (roast). The scenery of the sacred road between the temple of Hercules and the temple of Juno is an enchanting location that has always meant brotherhood between peoples, from where the two extremes of nougat will start, to join in front of the majestic temple of concord.
One of the most sung, played and danced songs by the folk group of Agrigento is the Schiacciata di li mennuli ("the schiacciata delle mandorle"). The song, written by the musician and poet michele Pisciotto from Agrigento, evokes the harvest and the various stages of almond processing.