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an enormous communal feast

An age-old tradition in Abruzzo and parts of central Italy that goes back to the 15th century, the Panarda is communal feast of anywhere from 40 up to 60 or even 70 courses that symbolizes abundance.

Trying to decipher the origins of the Panarda is far trickier; basically no one agrees. Some say the name comes from pane and lardo; others say it comes from the Greek pan for 'all'; still others say panarda, paggio or panatica were medieval words for military provisions and/or the plunder taken after a victory in battle. Generally it was the one time when the aristocracy of a village or town mingled with the commoners.

Some say the first Panarda was held way back when after a young mother in Abruzzo returned from fetching water to find her baby in the mouth of a wolf. She prayed to St Anthony Abbot, and the wolf released the baby, and in return the woman promised the saint a communal feast, which is why many Panarde used to take place around the saint's day in January.

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Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

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