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Pan e Vin and Brusàr a Vècia

In the Veneto, Epiphany is a synonym for ceremonial bonfires known in the Treviso area as "Pan e Vin". Christianity took over this tradition and associated the Epiphany bonfires with those lit by the shepherds to dry Baby Jesus' clothes and light the way of the Wise Men, lost in the region. In fact, the bonfires date back to the sun and fire worship of pre-Christian farming civilisations.
Custom demands that the Pan e Vin bonfires burn for three consecutive evenings because in the pagan religion three is considered the perfect number. Repeating the fire also frees the land from brambles, stubble and weeds, preparing it for grazing and growing crops. The bonfires were followed by a special ritual, lost over the centuries, to honour and appease the god.
Whatever the origin of the festival and irrespective of its practical and religious motivation, the Pan e Vin tradition has survived to our day because it satisfied the community's need to meet around the same fire and share their worries and joys. The presence of everyone around the same fire during the hardest time of the year for life in the fields reaffirms the need for a fraternal bond among men and renewed harmony with nature, despite the hardships, privations and difficulties.
Belonging to the Pan e Vin tradition is the bonfire halfway through Lent when a guy in the semblance of an old witch is burnt, symbol of winter, evil and poverty. The bonfire is preceded by a "trial" during which the old woman is made scapegoat for all the ills afflicting the community - taxes, poor administration, natural disasters, etc. So Pan e Vin brings Christmas to a close and opens the Carnival season. Burning the old woman leaves winter definitively behind and works a magic spell to speed up the arrival of spring.
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