Carnival in Italy: The “moccule” parade in Castignano (AP)


In Italy, we are serious about Carnevale.
Carnival is one of the most eagerly awaited events, and every town, even the smallest, has its own parades and traditions. Castignano, a small medieval town in Marche hinterland, makes no exception, and every year on Fat Tuesday the city prepares for the Carnival’s main event: The “moccule” parade.

This ancient tradition is well rooted in local culture, and deeply felt and awaited by the inhabitants of Castignano. It consists of an evocative procession of people marching through the alleys of the old town, singing folksongs and holding a “moccule”.

But, what is a moccule?

A “moccule” (dialectal for “mòccolo”, a short candle) is a handcrafted lantern, expertly made by locals, and consisting of a reed ending in rhomboidal facets covered with multicolored tissue paper. Behind the paper shell, it hides a small candle, lit before the start of the procession.

It’s not uncommon for the “moccule” to catch fire, and when it happens everyone should sing along the traditional chant of “s’è bruciato lu moccule! S’è bruciato lu moccule!” (“The moccule is burning down!”).

The parade takes place around 8 pm, in complete darkness, with the public lighting off. It starts from Piazza Umberto I, where hundreds of people reunites at the sound of “Fora, fora li moccule!” (“Bring out the moccule!”)

A colorful stream of lights, voices, and joy, slowly continues towards Piazza San Pietro, where a puryfing bonfire awaits to be fueled by what’s left of the “moccule”.

Tradition has it that participants have to jump around and across the bonfire for good luck, and make a wish for the future. Fireworks mark the end of Carnival and the start of the Quaresima.

The parade of the “moccule” represents one of the most suggestive Carnivals of Marche, and even so it’s still pretty unpopular in the Piceno territory. That’s possibly because it is overshadowed by the more famous Offida Carnival, which happens on the same day, only a few kilometers from Castignano.

sfilata dei moccoli
source: Luca Galotto Fotografo

The atmosphere that hovers the city during the “moccule” parade can be barely translated into words, and that’s why I asked Christian Valeri for permission to embed his video:

Discover more Italian traditions here.

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