The people of San Biagio Platano, a village in south-western Sicily, have celebrated Easter every year since the 1700’s by decorating their streets with arches and towers made of bread. The entire community spends three months turning the place into a gingerbread village… yet Hansel and Gretel never come!
For this Archi di Pane (Arches of Bread) festival, the supporting structures are made from bamboo canes and elaborately woven basket work. Then they add panels of bread all over them. This one has prickly pears on it.
They also illuminate the village with chandeliers made from pasta, beans and more bread.
The majority of the locals take part, and the whole village is an outdoor workshop for three months. They express their creativity with Easter themes, angels and symbols of fertility and abundance.
The very fancy bread has masses of salt in it, to make it rock hard, and it is varnished too so it can survive showers of rain. Some of the decorations are made of salt paste. The lower level decorations are made of normal bread, which was clearly too tempting for some people.
“I would never eat those,” said my son. “Even dough I want too.”
These Easter decorations are biscuits and the white coating is sugar icing, hung on a background which looked like bagels.
There were individual loaves of fancy varnished bread for sale. I bought several of them.
“Mummy, but you’re allergic to gluten,” reminded my little boy.
“I’m just going to hang them on the wall,” I reassured him.
“When we baguette home,” he answered.
Well, doesn’t this chandelier blow your toddler’s pasta projects out of the water? I think only a Sicilian could make a chandelier from bread, pasta and beans that actually looks like a classy piece of decor.
“I’m getting a bap feeling about this,” said the kiddo. “Are you going to buy one of those for the kitchen too?”
Most of the bread panels represented different types of foods typical in Sicily.
This little cherub is made entirely from grains of rice, beans, lentils and other grains.
Here’s San Biagio himself, the patron saint of the village, apparently making bread levitate. Usually called St Blaise in English, he was a bishop and doctor from Armenia, whom the Romans tortured to death in the third century A.D. Wild animals used to come to him of their own free will, so he could cure their ailments.
Here, he’s bean entirely depicted using pulses.
He miraculously saved the life of a little boy who was choking to death on a fish bone, and he is the saint you are supposed to invoke for help if you get something lodged in your throat. I suppose you could also try shoving it down with a mouthful of bread, at the same time.
On the day of Saint Blaise, priests can invoke him to cure any kind of throat ailment with the following blessing:
May Almighty God at the intercession of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, preserve you from infections of the throat and from all other afflictions
And this, children, is how you make a picture by painting and gluing pieces of pasta.
This olive tree was part of an arch that represented the abundance and plenty of Sicily. Many Sicilians came close to starvation in Sicily’s recent past, so when they have the chance to enjoy food and plenty, they celebrate it with all their hearts.
My son was exhausted after walking around the village all day. I’ve had dreadful backache all week, and was starting to look like a banana. Hubby was carrying all the loot and complained I was using him as a beast of burden.
“It was slice to see this, but I’m bready to go home now,” said the little lad.
Need to work on your Italian?