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Calabria Easter Italy Religion Traditions

Palm Sunday in Bova (Chòra tu Vùa in Greek)

Bova is a comune in the Province of Reggio Calabria in the Italian region Calabria, located about southwest of Catanzaro and about southeast of Reggio. It is one of the Greek-Bovesian speaking villages of Bovesia, one of the two Griko-speaking areas of southern Italy. The village is inscribed into I Borghi più belli d’Italia list.

Pupazze are decorated with flowers and fruits for the Palm Sunday Procession

Every year, the little town Bova-Chora in the Reggio Calabria area celebrates Palms Sunday with a special event, which is pretty much unknown in the rest of the region.

The tradition consists of bringing, during a procession, huge female statues sculptured with olive leaves to San Leo’s sanctuary, the main church in town.  

The farmers, who interlace olive leaves around a board of cane, are able to build female figures, the so-called “Pupazze”: once put together all the figures, which are different in size because they represent mothers and daughters, the Pupazze are decorated with flowers and enriched and bejeweled with fruits.  

The sculptures are brought outside the church where people get close to them in order to take the so-called “Steddhi” which are given out among the onlookers. 

Some people use to put a blessed “Steddha” up the tree of each farm which witnesses the holy relationship between man and universe.

Some others hang olive leaves on the bedroom walls; some others put them near their holy pictures and relatives’ photographs.

Some people use these blessed leaves to take away the evil eye. This moment is celebrated putting three grains of salt and four little small leaves as a cross on a burning embers. When the smoke begins to inebriate the house, people say a prayer. The blessing twigs keep their holy essence and so people burn them in the fire, to get rid of them.  

Previously published in the Italo/American magazine

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