The Virgin Sallies Forth

December 8, 2011

Christmas season starts here with a bang! Literally.

Firecrackers boomed loud enough to make your heart disintegrate and drums beat wildly as the Immaculate Virgin Mary sallied forth from churches all over Sicily today (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) and took her annual spin around town.

Mary came out after dark in my village, Ragusa Ibla, so I drove to Scicli where she made an appearance earlier in the day while it was still light enough to photograph.

The priest sang Ave Maria into his mike while onlookers made the sign of the cross and wiped tears from their eyes. Notes flew from tubas and trombones.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Scicli, Sicily, December 8, copyright Jann Huizenga

Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Scicli, Sicily, December 8, copyright Jann Huizenga

Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Scicli, Sicily on December 8, copyright Jann Huizenga

If you’re thinking of making a trip to Sicily sometime in the future, consider the Christmas season. The weather’s pretty nice and the traditions are rich. There’s spirituality in the air rather than commercialism. Check out Sicilia&Folklore for some wonderful photos of Sicilian pageants, and for a great list–in Italian–of upcoming celebrations (prossimi eventi on the right-hand side of the blog).


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18 comments to The Virgin Sallies Forth

  • Dennis Berry

    Great pictures they take me back to Palermo. Check out My Madonna by Robert Service. My favorite virgin poem.


    • Jann

      I checked out “My Madonna,” Dennis 🙂 and then got interested in reading about Robert Service himself. He lived in a cabin in the woods (like yourself!), a bordello for a while, and had other rollicking adventures! (Was also the most commercially successful poet of last century, according to Wikipedia.)

  • Saint Rocco

    Grazie Jann!
    Madonna del Carmine, prega per noi!

  • Jann, I would love to spend Christmas in Sicily! Someday…This event reminds me of the processions that take place during Holy Week in Spain. Have you ever been? They also have them in most Spanish-speaking countries where Catholicism is pivotal. These shots in black and white are amazing! So dramatic and lovely!

    • Jann

      Yes, Bella, because the Spanish were in Sicily for quite a while, they left a lot of their traditions on the island. In New Mexico, my other home, saints are paraded around on holy days, too. But here in Sicily it’s with a LOT more pomp & circumstance & emotion.

  • Isn’t it astounding how people can get so worked up over a statue, an icon, a symbol?! But traditions and beliefs run strong. As an outsider, I am fascinated to observe the pageantry and emotion of such displays. Christmas in Sicily? Hmmm…well worth considering! I think I’ll add it to my future Christmas wish list.

    • Jann

      It’s as if these statues of saints are flesh and blood. Amazing emotion & reverence accompanies the “uscita”–the “outing” of a statue on its designated day. Thanks for commenting, louciao!

  • vicki carol

    Deaest Jann,

    Thank you ,great prose and stunning black and whites . I have always wondered about the Sicilian Christmas. Here in the States it is all commercialism.
    Some of our local Churches are trying to desperately bring the Spirit back to the Season. My Mom (93) and I decided to do something everyday of Dec. to celebrate. It has been fun to bake cookies and go to the Theatre plays and listen to Christmas Carols. We are wrapping money around candy canes and giving them out to people as we just walk down the street. It doesn’t take much to try and give a little joy to others. Isn’t it the giving part of Christmas that makes us the happiest. The shopping sure isn’t. Yesterday , a lady jumped in front of me in line and just said, I don’t care, I have been waiting twenty minutes. Normally, I would have bopped her on the head, but I stayed calm and said , go ahead. That was my Christmas Spirit for that day. Next time she gets bopped. 🙂

    • Jann

      Vicki, your comment is SO GREAT!!! Thank you for giving us all something to think about. I love the idea of doing one festive thing each day. And wrapping money around candy canes and offering them to strangers is awesome!!!! I’m sure you’re getting lots of shocked looks.:) Keep up the good work!!

  • —Lovely in black & white,

    Jann, thank you so much for allowing your readers to live vicareoulsy thru your stunning photos & experiences in Italy… Xxx

    What will you do for Christmas? Traditions? Food?

  • Lola Hodges

    Today being the feast of the Immaculate Conception, it is a holy day and one of obligation for catholics. We, too, sang at mass today as well as the priest. Your photo of the Virgin is lovely to see. Thank you for posting. Lola

  • Jann, Wonderful! Today is a special feast day in our family. We are blessed: my grandmother was born on this day, named for it (Maria Concetta). I love this post, and the title, The Virgin Sallies Forth! Brava.

    • Jann

      Hi Susan–so glad you had a special day yesterday! My husband grew up Catholic, but he never told me a thing about this day, or the meaning of it. So I have to find it out for myself, and am delighted to hear it’s still celebrated in the US.

  • Jann, I went to see an exhibition of Giuseppe Leone’s photos here in Melbourne!. I know his work well, because of relatives in Ragusa – he even took the photos at my cousin’s wedding 45 years ago and they are beautiful.

    Yours are truly beautiful and one day I hope to see an exhibition of your photos and some published collections.
    You have a “fine eye” Jann. Do well.

    • Jann

      Marisa, I really appreciate you saying that about my photos. Giuseppe Leone is a huge inspiration to me. I’d heard he was in Melbourne, and that everyone in attendance got a copy of his wonderful Siciliani in Piazza. Lucky!!!!

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