Floats, Fireworks and the Santa Maria

DSC_2536The Feast of the Assumption on the 15th of August is always a cause for celebrating in Italy.  And nowhere does it better than the tiny village of Trevignano on the shores of Lake Bracciano.  The town prepares for the festival for weeks in advance and, on the day, everyone is out in force, dressed in their finest with all the family in tow.  Little restaurants along the lake shore are booked days ahead for the coveted tables on the water with the best views of the evening’s main event.  Early in the day mass is held in the flower bedecked parish church, La Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, and it is indeed the Holy Mother’s special day.  The church’s most beloved icon, the beautiful painting of the Madonna in Gloria, is removed from the church, paraded through the town with priests, altar boys, incense and songs.   She is then carefully handed aboard the boat chosen to transport her onto the lake.  The moment everyone has waited for arrives, as diners and crowds lining the lake shore under twinkling lights strung in the trees, suddenly hear the distant incantations of the village priest across the water.  Slowly boats appear in the darkness, covered in candles, lights, flowers, flags and ribbons, accompanying the unbelievable sight of the Madonna’s boat, which seems to glide invisibly along the water supporting its treasure under a massive arch of colorful neon swirls.  As the floating procession makes it way along the shore, the priest chants, people genuflect, singing breaks out here and there among the crowd and cheers and toasts with prosecco accompany the Madonna on her journey.  The festivities continue with a jolly fair on the promenade, games, rides, more treats to eat and drink and then the crowning glory of the event, 20 minutes of fantastically noisy, sparkling pyrotechnics light the midnight sky and draw yet more cheers from the crowd.  Even the youngest babies are still out and about til the early hours of the morning, celebrating the exuberant spirit of this touching ritual.