albero della cuccagna – part of the festival of Sant’ Erasmo

The second event of the day listed on the poster (processione in mare post) of the festival of Sant’ Erasmo was the tradizionale “Albero della Cuccagna in Mare”. I was quite curious about this event. I knew that albero meant tree and in mare meant the sea but could not for the life of me figure out what albero della cuccagna in mare meant.
When I arrived at the waterfront, I found this sign. No help there except I assumed ricchi premi meant something about a rich prize.

A group of mostly men along with a few teenagers and younger boys were gathered by a long green pole hanging over the water with four pieces of paper dangling at the end of the pole along. This made me even more curious. I had no idea what was about to take place. A man with a microphone was trying to recruit more participants for the event. After about 30 minutes of recruiting and going over the rules, the event finally started.

One by one, each participant tried to work their way down to the end of the soaped wooden pole in order to grab one of the pieces of paper dangling the end of the pole. The first five or six participants tried various ways to move down the pole. Each one fell into the water before successfully grabbing one of the papers. Some didn’t even make it half way down.

falling pole.JPG
Next up was a boy of about 12. I just happened to change my camera to video mode during his try. He ended up being the first person to reach the end of the pole and grab one of the papers successfully.

Here is the unedited video I took. I love listening to the excitement of everyone cheering him on in Italian as he works his way down to the end of the pole.

I stayed for about an hour watching this event. I never found out what what the prize was (if there was one) and have no idea what was written on the pieces of paper that dangled at the end of the pole… a mystery that my never be solved.

8 thoughts on “albero della cuccagna – part of the festival of Sant’ Erasmo

  1. That was great, the kid did a good job — I can’t even imagine how he hung on, without slipping off.
    Love the video, Girasol!.


  2. Happy New Year Girasoli! Wow, I remembered when you blogged about seeing this event on your trip. I think it’s so cool that you were able to witness this interesting contest (or game). It would’ve kind of fun to me too to watch this in person and to also find out more about this contest. Great Video clip of the little boy reaching the flag! I enjoyed it!
    Thanks for sharing this and posting the photo and video.


  3. maryann, never knew they did this in Massachusetts! Just down the Cape or Gloucester, Ipswish, Newburyport, etc? Interesting. Do they have papers at the end of the pole and if so, what is on them?
    Annie, he was so determined and proud to win first.
    sandra, he went really slowly. I think his size helped also.
    Maria, I just love listening to the crowd. I was cracking up listening to that one lady.
    Kathy, Happy New Year!! I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I think I was the only American at all of the events and was welcomed warmly by everyone.
    Glad you all enjoyed the video :)


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