May in Sicily: Traditions and Annual Events
Traditional Sicilian Carts Decorated for Festivals
During one of the periods of persecution against Christians in the third century A.D., there was an event in which three brothers were martyred and then made saints: Alphius, Cyrinus and Philadelphus. They were part of a prestigious family of the Roman aristocracy that was adherent to the Christian religion and thus being found guilty of professing a politically hostile faith, were chained at Vasto, their place of residence. So began a long journey in the prisons of the empire that led them to Taormina, where they suffered their first trial in Sicily; then passed from the current Trecastagni, on the slopes of Etna, where during a stop, a compassionate woman gave to the three brothers as many chestnuts and planted them in the ground where now stands a church. The trip ended in Lentini where they were martyred.
The three martyred brothers of Christianity, Alphius, Cyrinus and Philadelphus, left a strong tradition of faith that is represented in May in various locations in Sicily.
Among the most striking is that of Trecastagni (in the province of Catania). A twenty-one gun salute, shot in the morning from Forte Mulino to Vento, which begins the celebrations that last from the first to the seventeenth of May .
Even before the cannons announce the beginning of the festival, you may encounter pilgrims, often barefoot, along the roads leading to the town from all parts of the province. They make the "journey" to the Sanctuary and flock to 5:30 Mass.
The various shrines encountered along the roads act as "stations" to stop and rest, but also for meditation and prayer along the pilgrimage to the various local sanctuaries. At the celebration, the faithful "shout" their prayers. Some participate as the “nuri”, the naked, who are dressed in red shorts and shoulder straps, and are penitents bearing a bunch of flowers at the end of the tour is deposited in the church and then offered up for auction.
The Saints are also honored in Lentini, where a reliquary of Saint Alfio's heart is kept, and in San Fratello (province of Messina).