L.S.: Il Vecchione is a representative figure made of wood which at the end of the year, is burned, metaphorically representing the destruction of the old and of the bad things which happened during the year, so to begin the new year with novelty, curiosity and…and some sort of positivity.
My informant was born in the Tosco-Emilian Apennines (Italy) in 1931. While she spent the majority of her childhood there, she moved to Bologna, Italy, when she was about 13, and she has been living there ever since. She members going to Bologna’s main square, every year of her adolescence to witness this ritualistic performance with the whole city’s community gathered there.
The informant recounted me this while having a tea in her living room and taking about traditions which have been carried out, throughout time, in the city of Bologna.
Since antiquity, many were the ritualistic traditions related to the time cycle, and, in particular, New Year’s Eve has alway represented the liminal day par excellence, it being the relatively short period of time between the end of the old year and the advent of the new.
The tradition of burning a pile of wood, in this case portrayed with human features and appearances, is common to quite a lot of cultures and it plays the role of keystone in the natural and social cycle of seasons. As a matter of fact, as my informant pointed out, il Vecchione, which in Italian translates into ‘the super-old’, is lighted up on fire in the attempt of destroying what is old, past and to-be-forgotten -eliminating also all the bad and negative events the year which is ending has brought with it-, so that from its ashes a new, glorious and successful year -and consequently man- can rise and flourish. A type of ritualistic passage is committed, that is, the passage between one cycle of time and the next one is, through the burning, fulfilled and completed.