Messina on the 15th of August: A Vara procession

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On the 15th of August, most Italians celebrate the Ferragosto with their families and friends having a big meal and having fun. However, in certain areas of the country, especially in Sicily, the day is still closely dedicated to the religious celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven with ancient rituals, processions and special traditions taking place every year.
The most impressive one is the procession of LA VARA in Messina, in the north-east of Sicily, where every year on the 15th of August more than two thousand people dressed in white and barefoot, carry a special votive machine built for the first time in 1535 in honor of Emperor Charles V, the "Vara", around the city.

During the days before the 15th of August, the big procession is preceeded by another festive procession of the two Giants and the Camel, along with several folk groups. In particular, the two colossal statues, riding on a white horse and on a black horse, depict the legendary founders of the city of Messina Mata and the moor Grifone (called in Sicilian "u giganti e a gigantissa").
As a child when we visited Messina during the holidays, I was so impressed by the Giganti! I took several pictures and still keep them and treasure them so much. The remind me of our family trips around the island, because my parents always told me that I needed to know my island first in order to be able to enjoy the rest of the world later .......and I still thank them for this!

Below you can enjoy a documentary about people devotion to La Vara by Francesco CannavĂ . It is in Italian, but I think images say more than words in this case.

....and do not miss the amazing fire works!

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