Religion in Poggioreale: Holy Cross

Feast of the Holy Cross or the Day of the Cross

May 3

Feast of the Holy Cross is known in Italian as the Festa della Santa Croce

Boys and girls gather May flowers (yellow daisies) which are abundant along the country roads; thev make necklaces with them, and wear them and also place them on the small chapels (figureddri) found in the countryside.

There is happiness in the air and singing is heard: ‘Come, Spring…’ come May, come loves…

The petals are plucked one by one, and each is asked if the flower’s holder will have good or bad fortune, a husband… in sum, it is a liveliness in the air from the voices of celebrating children.


Background on the Day of the Cross

(Source: May 3rd: The Day of the Cross (Dia de la Cruz) Tradition. By Gretchen Filz. 3 May 2016.

The “Day of the Cross” is a popular part of religious and cultural identity in many Latin American countries. “Holy Cross Day” is based on an old liturgical feast celebrating the discovery of the true cross of Christ by St. Helen on May 3rd, 326 A.D.

On this day the Cross of Jesus Christ is honored with processions, singing, and hundreds—even thousands—of decorated crosses along roadsides, hillsides, parks, cemeteries, and other public places.

It is a holiday especially for construction workers, who in honor of the celebration erect a cross onto the tops of buildings, decorated with paper flowers and streamers, continuing a tradition that began with the building of churches in the 16th century.

The faithful make a wooden cross, decorate it with flowers and streamers, and surround it with an abundance of fruit in thanksgiving to God for his blessing and bounty. It’s traditional to make a simple prayer of thanks in front of the cross before daring to grab a fruit to eat; and if you don’t place a cross at home, the devil comes to dance around!

*The duplicate May 3rd feast day was removed from the universal liturgical calendar in 1960 in favor of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th, but kept by special permission for some countries due to its popularity.

[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: ]