Isernia Turismo
Category : Per Comune

In the evening of the 24th of December, in Agnone, when the Saint Antonio bell rings (that is at 5:30 p.m., when you can hear the tolling of the highest bell-tower of the town), the countryside groups (Capammonde e Capabballe, Colle Sente, Guastra, Sant’Onofrio and San Quirico), formed by hundreds of every age bearers, wearing traditional costumes, light the “’ndocce” (torches) and make them way towards the main street of the town, becoming in this way a gigantic fire flood.

In the past, the ‘Ndocciata of Agnone took place late in the night, till midnight. Today, for tourist necessity, it starts some hours before, as soon as the sky becomes darker. In the past, the ‘ndocce were lighted above all in the countryside and near the front doors of the houses. Today, they are destined to a spectacular procession in the town centre and once they reach the square, a big bonfire is light up, around which people gather to say goodbye to the negative things of the year about to finish and symbolically burnt in the fire.

The ‘ndocce are big torches made of white fir wood and dried brooms sheaves tied up with a string. The ‘ndocce –three or four metres high – has a characteristic halo-shape or fan-shape and they always have an even number of torches, which can be vary from two to twenty. The ‘ndocce are carried by one or more bearers, wearing peasant costumes, whom put their head among the rays and bind fasten two torches balancing the whole structure. They use white fir to built the ‘ndocce for different reasons. First of all the fir is a resinous plant of easy combustion, though is a very heavy wood to carry; moreover, it is easy to find it in the woods in the province of Isernia; in particular, the one used for the ‘ndocciata of Agnone is drawn from Montecastelbarone woods. The choice of the fir has also a symbolic value: it is the most important naturalistic symbol of the Nativity; in fact, even if it is linked to pagan rituals, the fir has become the sacred Christmas tree for the Catholics.

The trunks of the fir, cleared of its bark, are cut in slight plankings, about one metre and a half long, tied up in a sheaf and piled up to three/four metres of lenght. This long group of wood ingots is enriched of dried stalks of brooms on the top. So the ‘ndocce  burn and crackle characterising the ritual also for their sound. Depending on how the ‘ndoccia burnt, they draw the omens: if the bora blew, it was foreseen a good crop and on the contrary if the wind passed away. A crackling fire and a thick flame were considered a good omen because able to expel the witches.

One of the usages better remembered by elderly people was to do the “cumbarojje”, that is to cut a fine figure in front of the girls; in fact, they competed in making the most beautiful and solid torch in order to make it last more. The “cumbarsa”, that is the appearance, had also an other meaning: when the procession had ended, the men took the ‘ndoccia under the window of the maiden, in which they placed their hopes. If she leant out, it meant that she had appreciated it and the torch ended up to burn out in front of her main door, otherwise a water bucket put out the torch and the boy passion at the same time.

(Nella foto: la 'Ndocciata dell'8 dicembre 1996 a Roma in Piazza San Pietro)