28 Dec 2016

“Sa Notte ‘e Xena” and lots of other celebrations


Sardinia is a land steeped in history, age-old legends, festivals and ancient traditions. It’s a magical crossroads between the past and the present, the sacred and profane.

In Campidanese dialect, Christmas Eve is called ‘Sa Notte ‘e Xena’, meaning ‘the night of the feast’, because Christmas is, above all, a moment for coming together and sharing. The focal point is the dinner table brimming with food, which becomes the heart of the festive season. Local tradition dictates that a burning log, a ‘su truncu de xena’, should be left on the fire until the Epiphany, to mark the days of the feast. Dishes are prepared well in advance: salami, cheese, the obligatory lamb, suckling pig, goat, thousands of different types of desserts and especially bread which in days gone by was made into different shapes and richly decorated.

After the meal, traditional games and dances commence to the sound of launeddas pipes and accordions.

Obviously, there’s also Midnight Mass (‘Sa Miss’è Pudda’), announced by the chiming of the bells, or more precisely ‘The Mass of the First Crow of the Cockerel’, a term which is probably of Catalan origin. Again, from Iberian tradition, there’s “Signum Judicii” or “Canto della Sibilla, which has been held every year at the Alghero Cathedral since 200 AD: it’s a song that is sung in church, in complete darkness, before mass. The 25th is ‘Paschixedda’ day, which means ‘Little Easter’, not to be confused with ‘pasca manna’ the Easter of the resurrection. In Sardinia, this is also the traditional day for giving Christmas gifts to friends and family.

At New Year, they celebrate ‘Sa Candelarìa’, which is probably of Roman tradition. At the end of the year, the ancients used to make religious offerings called “calendae”, which is why it is still common in Sardinia to give presents just before the Epiphany, especially to children.