La Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore ad Agrigento (Almond Blossom Festival Agrigento)
The city of Agrigento, in addition to its historical and naturalistic beauties, boasts some decidedly interesting traditions. These include the Almond Blossom Festival, a popular festival that takes place every year at the beginning of March and lasts about a week. Let’s get to know this Agrigento celebration better.
Characteristics of the festival
The goal of the festival is to celebrate the arrival of spring, which corresponds to the blossoming of the almond trees and therefore – metaphorically – to the return of life. A festival that, over time, has attracted more and more folk groups from all over the world.
The event starts with a visit to the Valley of the Temples at sunset, and then continues with the lighting of the so-called “friendship torch” in front of the Temple of Concord. The celebrations end with a flourish, that is with the parade of various folk groups (with Sicilian floats) and musical bands starting from the city to get to the Valley of the Temples. In addition, always in the final part of the party, an artistic exhibition is staged at the foot of the Temple of Concord. A jury awards the Golden Temple, rewarding the groups that danced and sang best and the one who has the best traditional costume.
In addition to the actual almond blossom festival, there are also collateral initiatives. Among these “miss spring”, where the most beautiful girl among the various groups that perform is awarded. The most beautiful flowered balcony among those in Via Atena, which is the main street of Agrigento, is also awarded. Finally, during the festival, exhibitions and tastings of the almond are organized to advertise this typical Sicilian product.
History of the Almond Blossom Festival
The festival was celebrated for the first time in 1937, in the Agrigento municipality of Naro. A party wanted for some time by Count Alfonso, who wanted to organize a celebration aimed at making the typical Sicilian products known. The period before spring is chosen as the period, when the climate is mild and the almond trees show their fruit.
The festival was interrupted in 1941 due to the Second World War, and then resumed in 1948 and staged regularly every year. Over time, the festival acquires more and more notoriety and is characterized by an increasing number of events.
Beyond the aforementioned interruption for war reasons, there have been others throughout history. In 1966 the party was not celebrated due to the Agrigento landslide, while in 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The almond blossom festival, in addition to establishing itself as a deep-rooted tradition of Agrigento, has in some way stimulated historic businesses. In 2011, during the sixty-sixth edition, a group of pastry chefs created the longest nougat that ever existed with a length of 660 meters. The dessert is shown in front of the Temple of Concord and becomes part of the “Guinness World Records”. A similar feat took place 5 years later, when the longest fruit cake in the world (with its 606 meters) was created.
If these feats characterize only some editions of the festival, a feature common to all the celebrations is given by one of the most popular songs. It is Schiacciata di li mennuli (“the schiacciata of almonds”), written by the musician and poet from Agrigento Michele Pisciotto to recall the harvest and the various stages of almond processing.
Other folkloristic events in Agrigento
In addition to the almond blossom festival, the Agrigento area hosts other interesting and characteristic celebrations. These include the Easter Arches festival, celebrated in the Agrigento municipality ofSan Biagio Platani. It is an event in which unique arches are built, with bamboo canes and other plants. The real stars of the festival, however, are the works made with bread, such as reproductions of important sculptures and mosaics made with pasta and cereals.
Another very famous festival in the area is the Sciacca Carnival, one of the most popular both in Sicily and in the rest of Italy. During the celebration allegorical floats and mini-floats parade, with the related masked groups in tow. After four days of parade in the streets of the historic center of Sciacca, the floats are classified according to various criteria (structure, choreography, script) and the winner is declared.
Also worth mentioning is the feast of Santa Croce in Casteltermini, also known as the “Tataratà” (from the rhythm of the drum that marks the performances of the dancers who compete during the celebration). Legend has it that a cow separated from the rest of the herd and always stopped at one point, where a wooden cross was then found that could not be removed. The inhabitants of the nearby countryside decided to build a small church there, to protect the famous cross. Precisely in that area – to be precise, in 1629 – the present-day municipality of Casteltermini was founded in Agrigento.