Celebrations in honour of Sant’Antonio Abate (also known as St. Anthony the Abbot) take place on the 16th and 17th of January all over Sardinia with the lighting of massive bonfires, which represent the descent of the Saint to hell from where, according to the legend, he managed to bring the fire on earth that was covered with ice. This year 42 villages took part in the celebrations with bonfires of different scale and given the low temperatures that have hit Sardinia in the past few days a celebration around the fire it is quite appealing. Every village adds something different to the celebrations to fit their traditions; the one thing that remains the same is the fire, which is blessed by the priest and is the centre of the party where people gather to chat, drink and exchange traditional cakes. Throughout the night there is a flow of traditional music and dance. The fire is kept alive until the following night.
In Mamoiada, in the province of Nuoro, the celebrations are particularly interesting for tourists as they coincide with the first outing of the Mamuntones, which are the traditional carnival masks of the Barbagia regions. These masks have ancient origins and represent the mysterious connection between man and animal; they parade on the street following a choreographic step which is almost a dance surrounded by the sound of the heavy cowbells they carry on their chest. There will be more about the Mamuntones during the Carnival celebrations in February.
This is the first of many folkloric celebrations that take place in Sardinia during the course of the year.