• Art & Culture

The Legend of the Giubiana

The Giubiana festival is a very popular tradition in Lombardy

By the end of january, several localities in the province of Como fire up large bonfires that are used to burn dummies made out of straw and rags: the Giubiana Dummies.

There are various dummy shapes and multiple ways in which they are burned, yet this practice's origins hail from ancient rituals reenacting a judicial process and an execution with purifying fire. The previous year is symbolically executed for its load of negative events. With its demise, good wishes for the future are propitiated with a new rebirth.

Every comunity has followed its own version of this ritual alongside various tales and traditions. In numerous towns, the Giubiana is pictured as an old, vile witch. This character is linked to the tradition of the risotto with luganega sausage. Legend says that the hungry witch chased children in order to eat them. A mother had an idea in order to save her own son by preparing a large pot of yellow risotto with sausage, hoping that the hag would rather taste a piglet's tender flesh an spare her child's life. She put the pot near the window. Its inviting scent draw the Giubiana's attention, who rushed in to eat it the risotto. She kept eating for the whole evening without realizing that the sunrise was drawing near. Since witches cannot survive sunlight, she bursted in flames as soon as the first ray of light reached her.

The Giubiana in Cantù does not look like an old witch but a beautiful lass who betrayed the city centuries ago. During the decade-long war between Como and Milan (1118-1127), Cantù was allied with the Milanese capital, enduring Como's relentless siege. One evening, a young, heavenly-looking maiden knocked on the city gates seeking asylum. The gates were opened and she was welcomed in. Yet this young woman got hold of the city keys and delivered them to its enemies. Cantù fell to Como's might, but Milan won the war soon after, so locals enacted their vengeance by capturing the traitor and sentencing her to be burned to the stake. Every year, a dummy dressed in elegant garbs is exposed for public shaming and then paraded into Piazza Garibaldi, Cantù's main square. Once there, the sentence is read aloud in front of the crowd and the authorities, then thrown into the flames. If the dummy burns in its entirety, then it will be a good year.

Whether she is beautiful or ugly, the Giubiana has become an occasion to gather up, celebrate and taste some nice risotto, drink mulled wine or watching fireworks in good company. 

On the same topic

October in Lombardy: five events for the weekend

  • Art & Culture
Eventi Ottobre in Lombardia

Milan and Lake Como

Milan, city of a thousand histories. Plus, a trip to Lake Como
  • Art & Culture
Milano_Como

The leonardo ferryboat in imbersago

  • Art & Culture
The Leonardo Ferryboat in Imbersago

6 Scenic views in Lombardy

6 ideas to observe Lombardy from another point of view.
  • Art & Culture
A step away from heaven

Theaters Milan

The Scala, the Piccolo, the Nazionale, the Arcimboldi.. Milan on stage.
  • Art & Culture
Theaters Milan, visitors guide

Theaters Pavia

Opera, prose, dance and theatrical review .... the theater in Pavia and the province is staged
  • Art & Culture
Theaters Pavia, cultural vacations in Lombardy

Museums in Lombardy

Some suggestions on museums to visit in Milan and outside the Lombard capital
  • Art & Culture
Museums in Lombardy, suggestions on cultural tourism

Ansaldo workshop

A large structure divided into pavilions named after the director Visconti, the scenographer Benois and the costume designer Sapelli
  • Art & Culture
Ansaldo Workshop

Castles Mantua

The Mincio marked for centuries the border of important possessions. The landscape was characterized by new castles in key places
  • Art & Culture
Castles Mantua, discovering Lombardy

Bergamo in a weekend

A perfect square, the masterpieces of the Carrara Academy, the Venetian Walls Unesco World Heritage Site. Discover Bergamo!
  • Art & Culture
Bergamo in a weekend

Alessandro Manzoni Itinerary

Lombardy blends nature and culture in an itinerary that will take you to the locations of his famous novel The Betrothed
  • Art & Culture
Alessandro Manzoni Itinerary

Museum Varese

Mummies, archaeological finds, design, ancient and contemporary art: museums to suit all tastes!
  • Art & Culture
Museum Varese, what to see?

Autumn in Lombardy: Four events for everyone

  • Art & Culture
Autumn in Lombardy: Four events for everyone

The sound of Stradivari

Performances on historical Stradivari violins
  • Art & Culture
Clarissa Bevilacqua

Museums Lecco

Known above all for 'I Promessi Sposi' by Manzoni, Lecco is also rich in history and culture to be discovered in the Civic Museums
  • Art & Culture
Museums Lecco, exploring Lombardy

Fossils Civic Museum

  • Art & Culture
Besano's Fossils Civic Museum, the times of sea in Varese

Franciacorta Itinerary

The ideal destination for those who love cultural tourism
  • Art & Culture
Franciacorta Itinerary, let's traverse it

Theaters Brescia

Brescia will surprise you with the vitality of its theaters, where are staged prose, ballets and concerts
  • Art & Culture
Theaters Brescia, culture in Lombardy

Seven castles in Lombardy

From Lake Garda to Valtellina by way of Milan. Among crenellated walls, towers and porticoed loggias
  • Art & Culture
Castello Sforzesco a Milano

The Cloister of Voltorre

The monastic art of the Cloister of Voltorre
  • Art & Culture
The monastic art of The Cloister of Voltorre