Sardinia: Santa Greca Festival

It's all smoke and lights at the Santa Greca Festival in Sardinia.

Last night I headed into Decimomannu for the Santa Greca festival. The thing I love about the saints of the Catholic Church is that most of them probably never existed. Like Santa Greca. Here’s her story: About 400 years ago, give or take a decade, this little town in Sardinia decided to build a new church. So they started digging around and came across an old tombstone dating back to the 4th or 5th century saying that an unnamed Greek who lived two decades, two months, and 19 days, was buried there on Jan. 21 in some unknown year.

That’s it. That was all the information they had: She was a woman, she died when she was 20, and she wasn’t from around here. So the archbishop of Cagliari decides that since this woman was from Greece, she probably came to Sardinia because she was being persecuted by some nasty Roman emperor. Probably because she was a Christian. So he decides, what the hell. Let’s name the church after this woman who, because she has no name we’ll just call Santa Greca, and lets have a festival to celebrate her. And that’s what they did. And are still doing.

So how do they celebrate this mysterious Greek saint? Basically by having a five-day barbecue in which they roast hundreds of suckling pigs as well as eel shish kababs, stuffed sheep intestine, and donkey sausages. You can also get a nice cut of horsemeat if you want, but I don’t recommend it; it costs about double what a plate of suckling pig goes for.

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