Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Arenzano Day

Like every good Italian village, Arenzano has a patron saint and therefore saint day. It’s not enough to just celebrate the regional patron saint (in our case, San Giovanni/St. John the Baptist)—you need a parish one too; it’s good to diversify. Arenzano’s parish church is named after a saintly duo, the martyrs Nazario (according to Wikipedia his father was possibly Jewish!) e Celso. The story is a little bizarre and may even appear to be a bit scandalous (especially to those of us always looking to read a little more into things). In summation, Nazario left Rome to preach in Milan and along the way, at the behest of a mother seeking religious guidance for her son, became a guardian of the then nine-year-old Celso. They proselytized on the Swiss and Italian sides of the Alps, alternately preaching and then being tortured for their beliefs, always together. They were finally beheaded around 400 C.E.  Most depictions of them show a man and faithful boy by his side. Make of it what you will.

Statues of Nazario e Celso

Cross being paraded through streets

Parish church lit up and surrounded by crowds

As with most saint’s days, it’s a good occasion for a party. The streets of Arenzano are overtaken by street vendors and the tiny via e vicoli are mobbed by revelers young and old and are nearly impassable. Unfortunately, with the exception of the religious procession after the sun set that evening (July 28), there was nothing very local about this festival. Arenzano Day provides yet another example of something Trofie Wife has decided to term “the globalization of crap.” As they do for the other festivals here and around the region (and in some cases, other parts of the country) the same vendors return with the same cheaply made toys from China, knockoff handbags and sunglasses, and dolce da Sicilia (seemingly-from-the-freezer canoli, stale marzipan fruits, and over-roasted nuts). There’s even a group of South Americans playing wooden pipes and flutes, accompanied by a background CD that you can purchase (it makes Trofie Wife feel like she’s at the 42nd Street subway station; I don’t have anything against South American music, but there’s something about that ubiquitous CD and flute combo that doesn’t really smack of genuine musical talent, especially when they’re not in sync, which is so often the case). The New York-based Center for an Urban Future conducted a study a couple of years ago about the generic, non-place-based nature of street fairs in New York City (MozzArepas, the sock and underware bins, the live cleaning product and salad chopper demonstrations, etc.; if you’re interested, see and it’s quite sad that the same study could be applied to Italian street fairs. Trofie Wife feels deeply embarrassed whenever she sees evidence of this non-particularism sneaking in because she knows that American culture is to blame. Ah, the shame. You know how far American commercial practices have reached? Even street fairs in Arenzano and Genova boast the live cleaning product and salad chopper demonstrations! Complete with headsets! And people crowd around to watch the guy speak really fast. It’s awful!

Well, enough gloom and doom. On the upside, there were fireworks (good import; being that it was July (albeit the end of the month) and I also managed to score a cotton candy, it felt a little bit like the Fourth of July, which we didn’t celebrate properly here). Our landlady avoids the fireworks because they remind her of the bombing during World War II; there were, however, plenty of her contemporaries watching the show, so I guess they’ve had better success working through their post-traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, Martello was stuck at the office, pumping out drawings. At least Trofie Wife could enjoy her favorite raining gold fireworks (see picture below), even if she had to do it alone.

Baci e gelato,
Martello e Trofie Wife

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