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The Unique New Year's Tradition in Southern Italy: Release & Transform

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

by Sierra Busch and Frances Reid


One of my favorite things about my job is discovering unique traditions in Italy that I’ve never heard of. One I find particularly interesting is the Fanòve festival, which takes place in Castellana Grotte in the southern region of Puglia, Italy at the beginning of the new year.


I’ve written a whole blog post about it here, but essentially, it’s a ritual of transformation that involves burning things from the past that they want to release. They build bonfires so big that they need ladders to reach the top, then they light them up and celebrate around it all night!


The practice actually dates back to the Dark Ages when the town’s patron saint told them to burn all their belongings, liberating them from the bubonic plague.

a crowd gathered around a giant bonfire in a piazza in italy which has just been lit
an enormous pile of sticks and logs dusted with snow in an italian piazza with cloudy skies
two huge bonfires at night with an old italian building in the back

Though I haven’t yet experienced this unique New Year's tradition in person, I did experience a total transformation while living in the village where it takes place. I let go of the past and turned my full attention to my inner vision and creating the future I wanted. I fully believe in the power of the Fanòve, and in general, the power of taking time to let go of things from the past year that will not serve your goals for the next. Burn the things that are plaguing you– literally.


As this year comes to a close, I want to share my method for starting a new year with purpose. It’s inspired by the transformational New Year's tradition of the southern Italian Fanòve festival but mingled with my very organized, go-getter, goal-oriented mind that just can’t stop dreaming. So grab a notebook and a cappuccino, turn off distractions, and dive in!

Woman sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Amalfi Coast in Italy

Step 1: Reflect. If you chose a word or a theme for the past year, how did it play out and show up? If you didn’t, what word might come up as you look back on the year? You might choose to think back to each month and jot down some highlights and challenges you remember about that time.


How do you feel about the past year? Does reflecting on it make you feel proud and accomplished, or do you feel sad or disappointed by another year where you missed the mark? Be honest but gentle on yourself. The point of this New Year's tradition is to lock in the year's lessons to help you go further in the coming year.

in a stone village in italy at night, a crowd stands around a huge pile of sticks and logs. a ladder is leaned up against this bonfire and someone at the top is lighting it

Step 2: Burn baby, burn! What really sucked about this year? Imagine you're participating in that Italian New Year's tradition and write down the things you would throw in the huge bonfire at the Fanove festival to transform into something new and positive. It could be a painful experience that you feel is holding you back in some way, or a habit that you know is keeping you from living a full and healthy life.


Perhaps it’s a harmful mindset that you know you need to change. What’s not serving you anymore now that you have the experience you do?