Folk Traditions: Popular Games Played on Holidays



A large crowd always gathers around the game of “conquer the greased pole” (hi jocu di lu travu); by Noto it was called: marramamdo, by Avola: quarantamau (as for Pitre), in Italian: cuccagna.

This game involves a rather tall pole that is covered with soap, and on the top of the pole different prizes are displayed. There’s a race to reach the top and grab down a prize. Naturally, this all happens among a cheering crowd and the soap makes it very difficult to reach the top, which is attained, after many tries, by some strong participant.

The other giuoco li pignateddri, consists in stretching a rope from which different covered pots hang, each containing a prize (pigeons, rabbits, hunting caps). Naturally the trick is that some of the pots contain water or ashes to make the crowd laugh. The contestants approach one after the other to try to find the prizes, they beat a pan with a stick to make their choice and then…laughter. The other game is to remove a silver coin with one’s teeth from the blackened underside of a skillet hanging from a wire, holding arms behind one’s back. Imagine how black their faces become! And how much laughter, shouting, hilarity!

During popular festivals there is seldom a lack of horse races, fireworks, and lighting in the main street and in the piazza, which especially give a happy and picturesque spectacle, cinema in the open…

Di la ‘Mmaculnta a Santa Lucia – crisci la jimmta quant’un passu di cuccinvia. Di Santa Lucia a Natali – crisci quanta un passu di cdni. La nuttata cchiu longa chuidra di San Giuanni.

In Poggioreale the housewives make sweets:

Pignulati, [small pieces of fried dough rolled hot honey and moundwd together to look like a pine cone. Hence the name]

Cassateddri are the same shell as a cannoli but fried flat, filled with ricotta. Like a cannoli sandwich.

Cutugnata is a compote made from the quince fruit…cooked to a gel-like consistency and used as part of other desserts…sometimes as decoration.

Mustazzoli di Natali are cookies made with nuts, molasses and cooked wine.

Cannatuna are more about the shape and size of a type of biscotti filled with figs; very large fig cookies.

Ducatuli….cookies made with chopped pistachio nuts.

Muffuletta is a round bread that is a bit flatter than other bread; rolled in flour and which contain fennel seeds. Usually made for Day of the Dead. Eaten with ricotta, grated cheese, olive oil, anchovies, etc.

Sfingi are essentially doughnut holes…fried dough rolled in sugar, or honey, or cinnamon.222

Cuccidrati are smaller cookies filled with fig and nuts …they vary in shape and size depending on holiday – on these they create beautiful, intricate designs in the shapes of flowers, forms of winged creatures, etc. These treats are made of flour, dried chopped figs, honey, sugar, egg.

Spinnagghi is the name of sweets found in the homes during festivals.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: ]