Feast of Santa Barbara in Paternò, Sicily

Thu, 11/27/2008 - 04:25
Santa Barbara
Even as winter settles into the Bel Paese, Sicilians in Paternò, in the province of Catania, are celebrating. The Feast of Santa Barbara, the patron saint of 50,000 person city and of those who handle guns and explosives is held the first week of December to honour the saint who saved the city from destruction during fires, storms, eruptions of nearby Mount Etna, and, back when the festival first began, the Bubonic Plague.

The celebration begins on the first of December and continues for a week, but the big day is December 4, St. Barbara's formerly designated day (she was one of the saints removed from the Catholic Calendar by the Vatican in 1969 because of doubts about her existence and tale). Paternò's festival continues, though, and has been held since the 16th century, when Santa Barbara appeared in a dream to a Benedictine nun in quarantine, and the nun begged her to save the city. Once the prayer was answered and the city was saved from the epidemic, Santa Barbara was named Paternò’s co-patron saint along with San Vincenzo.
Along with the emotional religious ceremony and procession, the modern celebration includes sporting and musical events, and, perhaps the biggest draw of all, a spectacular fireworks display set to music.
In the following videos you’ll find the church service for Santa Barbara, last year’s beautiful fireworks show, and a quick tour of the beautiful city of Paternò set to folk music.

Bonus Santa Barbara fact: If you've heard or seen the phrase "una Santa Barbara" in regards to a criminal investigation, it is referring to an impressive weapons arsenal, and it gets its name from the patron saint of those who handle weaponry.