Il Maggio di Accettura

The Maggio di Accettura is an ancient pagan wedding festival celebrated by the townspeople of Accettura, a mountain village of about 2,000 people in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. But, it’s not just any wedding ceremony. In honor of their patron saint, San Giuliano, the people of Accettura host an annual arboreal wedding, that is, a marriage of two trees. On the Feast of the Ascension which falls on May 30, 2019, a group of volunteers will go to the nearby Montepiano forest to choose the highest, straightest and healthiest cerro (turkey oak) tree that will become the maggio. The maggio portrays the groom. Many pairs of oxen will then carry the large and heavy tree back to the village. On Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019, another group will be tasked to find the most beautiful and leafy holly tree in the Gallipoli Cognato forest. The tree becomes the cima (bride) and will be carried by foot back to the village while locals celebrate with song and dance. On the following Tuesday, at sunset, the maggio and cima are married. The tall, straight maggio will be topped with the leafy cima and, together, will be hoisted up by ropes and a pulley in the town square. It is said that this ancient ritual represents the idea of a rebirth of the human community through its participation in the resurrection of vegetation, that spring awakens the fertile spirit of nature. In Accettura, this celebration unites the town. Many young people have been forced to leave because of a poor economy. But, during Maggio, upwards of 1,000 return to celebrate. The preservation of ancient rituals like the Maggio keep Italy’s history alive.