Monday, March 6, 2017


  The Scoppio del Carro ("Explosion of the Cart") is a folk tradition of Florence, Italy.  On Easter Sunday, a cart, packed full of fireworks and other pyrotechnics, is lit and provides a historic spectacle in the civic life of the city.

A Little History on the Festival

   The event of the Scoppio del Carro has its origins in the First Crusade, when Europeans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem in a conflict to claim Palestine for Christianity.  In 1097, Pazzino de' Pazzi, a Florentine from a very prominent family, was by tradition, the first man to scale the fortified walls that surrounded Jerusalem.  As a reward for this act of bravery, his commander gave him three flints (fire starters) from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which were then carried back to Tuscany.  These were and still are kept in the Chiesa delgli Santi Apostoli.


   It became the practice for a "holy fire" to be struck from these flints at Easter tide, which was then carried throughout the city by groups of young men bearing torches.  In time, this tradition evolved into something similar to what is seen today.....a cart bearing a large candle was rolled through the city to the cathedral, from where the holy fire would be distributed.
   By the end of the 15th century,the Scoppio del Carro transformed into its present form.
   The ultimate origins of the event may be of pagan origin, since it involves a display of great noise and light to ensure a good harvest.  Additionally, farmers from the Florentine countryside still observe the Scoppio del Carro with interest because of this.


The Main Event

   On the morning of Easter Sunday, the 30 foot tall antique cart ( in use for over 500 years), moves from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo.  Hauled by a team of white oxen,  festooned with garlands of the first flowers and herbs of spring, the cart is escorted by 150 soldiers, musicians, and people dressed up in their 15th century costumes.

   Meanwhile, a fire is struck using the historic flints form Jerusalem at ApoChiesa degli Santi Apostoli.  It is then carried by the procession to the cathedral square by members of the Pazzi family, clerics, and city officials.
   The cart is loaded with fireworks while a wire, stretching to the high altar inside the churches cathedral, is fitted with a mechanical dove (the "columbina").  Shortly thereafter, at the singing of the song, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo", during Easter Mass, the cardinal of Florence light a fuse in the columbina with the Easter fire.  It then speeds through the church to ignite the cart of fireworks outside.


    During all of these stages, the bells of Giotto's campanile ring out.
   The complex fireworks show that follows, last approximately 20 to 30 minutes.  A successful display from the "Explosion of the Cart" is supposed to guarantee a good harvest, stable civic life, and good business.



   Lets face it, everyone likes to be appreciated.  Whether it is friends, couples, parents and children, an encouragement of gratitude, even a "Thank You", certainly brightens up the day.  Some of us may not be used to it or even if we are, it certainly doesn't get heard or said enough.  Perhaps we don't quite know how.  Here are 10 great ideas that will get you started in the right direction.

  1. Say it with a Smile- Smile more!  We are endowed with a powerful and contagious gift.  Everyone can do it, and yet we tend not to do it enough.  Remind yourself.  The more often you smile, the brighter your thank-you becomes.
  2. Write a Note- For a moment, remember your middle school years.  What did half the classes do behind the teacher's back?  Write and pass notes, of course!  It was fun.  Write thank you notes even for the small things that people do.  Be specific and authentic.  A thank you note is a very special way to show your gratitude.
  3. Give a Gift- To say thank you is a gift in itself.  Whatever your purpose, make the gift an interesting one.  Is a major holiday coming up?  Maybe you can wrap the gift in a holiday related fashion, or put it in a cute gift bag.  You can make the gift a funny one.  Go for it!  The gift doesn't necessarily have to be flamboyant, just make it something meaningful, something from your heart.  Even a thank you card can last a lifetime.
  4. Recognize Publicly- Whether you smile, write a note, or give a gift, you can do it in two major ways.  The first is to recognize someone in front of others.  Special celebrations such as a graduation or birthday party, are great times for public recognition.  You can thank someone for playing a part in your own achievements.  If you ever happen to write a book, the acknowledgements page is a great way to say thank you.  Even to say thank you in the presence of good friends is memorable.
  5. Appreciate Privately- Words of gratitude said in private can be very special.  A thank you in a small circle of close friends is a great way to show gratitude.  It is also a perfect way to express appreciation for one's spouse.  When you say thank you to those that are close to you, even when they are only acquaintances or co-workers, you begin to develop an attractive personality.  People appreciate  it when  someone can notice the small things they do.  It brings them a world of pleasure.
  6. With a Handshake- This is the general form of greeting in America.  You can also express gratitude with the same gesture.  You may accompany the handshake with a few words of encouragement or even a simple thank you.  Remember to smile, keep your posture, and shake hands like you mean it.
  7. With a Kiss- If you ever decide to visit France, you will find that the French are genial with their greetings.  A kiss in the moment of gratitude may be acceptable depending on the cultural context and circumstance of the event.  When it is between spouses in private, it can be a passionate kiss.  When done in a public setting, it may be quick and cheerful.  Depending on the setting and purpose, a kiss is a great way to say thank you, a moment one may be reluctant to ever forget.
  8. Give a Pat on the Back- A friendly gesture, it is great as a sign of support and is a perfect way to show gratitude.  When a job is well done, a pat on the back by someone in a "higher position" may very effectively portray one's gratitude.  Specifically coaches make it popular.  Whether it's a great play or a thank you for effort in class, a pat on the back is a great tool for showing thankfulness.
  9. With a Hug- Everyone at times need a hug.  The reasons for doing so can be endless, but a very meaningful reason would be to say thank you.  Depending on the situation, a hug can be a great way to say thank you.  The perfect moment offers perfect opportunities.
  10. Do Something Special- Get creative!  Think about what is meaningful to the person you want to thank.  What will make them smile as if they won the lottery?  Do they have specific hobbies or interests?  How can you make them feel special or appreciated?  For what do you want to thank them?  What will be your great idea?  As long as you express the message and the person understands it, you accomplished your goal.  Do the best you can and don't be afraid to experiment with multiple ways.  When you appreciate others, appreciation is bound to return to you.


   Moros y Cristianos or Moros i Cristians, literally in English is Moors and Christians, is a set of festival activities which are celebrated in many towns and cities of Spain, mainly in the southern Valencian Community; according to popular tradition the festivals commemorate the battles, combats and fights between Moors (or Muslims) and Christians during the period known as Reconquista (from the 8th century through the 15th century).


    The festivals represent the capture of the city by the Moors and the subsequent Christian reconquest.  The people that take part in the festival are usually enlisted in filaes or comparsas (companies that represent the Christian or Moor legions), they parade with bombastic costumes loosely inspired by Medieval fashion.  Christians wear fur, metallic helmets, and armor, fire loud arquebuses (guns or cannons), and ride horses.  In contrast, Moors wear ancient Arab costumes, carry scimitars (swords or spears), and ride real camels or elephants.  The festival develops among the shooting and the smell of gunpowder, medieval music, and fireworks, and ends with the Christians winning a simulated battle around a castle.



 The most well known Moors and Christians festival takes place in Alcoy ( a Valencian Community) from April 22nd to the 24th, around the Feast Day of Saint George.  According to legend, after James I of Aragon reconquered the city of Alcoy, the Moors, in turn, tried to recover it shortly after.  But, when they were about to start the battle again, Saint George miraculously appeared to he Moors, who were frightened away.


Christian Battle Dress

Moors in their Battle Costumes

     Other remarkable Moors and Christians festivals are celebrated in the towns of Bocairent (Medieval town between February 1st-5th), La Vila Joiosa (with its desembarc), Villena, Biar, Cocentaina, Crevillent, El Campello, Elda, Muro d'Alcoi, Oliva (3rd weekend in July), Ontinyent, Oriola, Petrer, Pollenca and some districts of Alicante city.  The most ancient festival is celebrated in Caudete (Nowadays in the Albacete province, but then was part of the Kingdom of Valencia), dated from 1588.
   A version of this festival survives in the Philippines in the form of the moro-moro play, staged during fiestas.  The show begins with a parade of stars in their colorful comstumes.  Actors playing Christians wear blue costumes while those playing Moors wear red costumes and are fully ornamented.