Saturday, February 26, 2011
As I have mentioned in earlier posts we are in the mountains and back before the days of global warming they used to see lots of snow here. Not unlike what we have known in Wisconsin. Of course hundreds of years ago there weren't ways to bring fresh foods and not much grows in the winter. So, in late January/early February many people were hungry and they took up the tradition of going from door to door singing the praises of those who lived there and asking for a little food. These songs and chats were in Euskera, the language of the Basque people.
Today the tradition has evolved a bit. Groups of people still gather together, sing and chant going from door to door, business to business but they usually are representing a cause for which they hope to earn a bit of money instead of food. The song is in Euskera and they have a stick decorated with the colors of Euskadi, the Basque region, which they rhythmically pound on the ground. At night there are groups of adults dressed in traditional clothing going through the streets in front of businesses singing for their cause and stopping for glasses of wine along the way.
School children also do this in groups and here is a 2+ minute video taken with my point and shoot camera of what Morgan and Maia's school performed in the streets near their school.
Here's a bit of what I learned about the history behind the festival. When the Catholics moved in to take over and spread their religion, they arrived in the Basque region and were a bit lost in what to do. They had no ability to understand the language as there are no Latin origins found in Euskera. They couldn't grow their wheat or their grapes for wine because of the cold climate. They did however want to infiltrate their beliefs. They realized that the Basque people are strong and not willing to give up their lifestyles and celebrations. So, the Catholics decided to let them celebrate as they always did but that they must name their holidays after saints.
This particular celebration took on the name of Santa Águeda although there is not any relation that we can find other than suffering. Santa Águeda back in 200 AD was a virgin martyr. Apparently a senator named Quintianus wanted to take her for himself as part of the persecutions realized by Emperor Decio and she refused. He had her tortured and killed.
There is no relationship to the Saint and the celebration but the Catholics get credit for realizing the best way to move their beliefs into a culture they had no connection with was to simply rename their holidays.