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In the Barbagia, the Feast of Sant’Antonio Abate officially marks the beginning of the Barbagia Carnival.
The rite of the bonfires, on January 16th and 17th, is linked to the “Saint of fire” as, according to the legend, he descended into hell to steal a firebrand and bring it to Earth for heat.
On this occasion, throughout Sardinia, the Carnival Masks come out for the first time, dancing among the huge bonfires lit up in the neighborhoods and church porches, drinking a glass of wine and tasting the typical sweets prepared in honor of the Saint.
In Fonni, during the vesper that precedes Mass, su pispiru, a single, huge bonfire is lit in Piazza Santa Croce. Afterwards the priest, with the procession’s statue of St. Antonio, makes three loops around the fire and blesses the bonfire and the Pane di Sapa (bread made with must) a typical sweet of the festivity, which is offered to the participants with a nice glass of wine. Finally, as per tradition, the masks of S’Urthu and Sos Buttudos lighten the event staging the fight between good and evil.
The Feast of Sant’Antonio in the rest of Sardinia
In Mamoiada you can admire the captivating rite of the investiture of the Mamuthones with leather and the typical black masks made of Alder or wild pear tree. They march in time with the sound of “sa carriga”, the bells they have on their backs, weighting several dozens of kilograms. They are headed by the Issohadores, who wear white masks and play with the audience, “capturing” people from the audience with their lassos.
In Orani the Sos Bundos are the typical masks and they are made with red-colored cork. They have a big nose, moustaches and a goat tee. They walk around the fires of the different neighborhoods holding big pitchforks. The sweets prepared for the festivity are called ‘su pistiddu’: they are made with must and honey, and they are offered to all the participants. They are also donated to sick people and to 13 persons named Antonio.
In Orotelli, the fire is blessed along with pets, since St. Antonio Abate is their patron Saint. The Thurpos are the traditional masks here, their face is blackened with soot and they wear a black, orbace coat and leather boots.
In Ottana, the typical masks are the Boes e Merdules and, after mass and the blessing of the bonfires in the square, S’ Ogulone gather around the fire, where bread is passed around.
In Nuoro, the bonfires are the subject of the contest “Su focu e Sant’Antoni prus bellu”. The municipality invites everyone to take pictures of the fires lit up in the different neighborhoods, around which people gather and celebrate.