Giorgio’s Baptism – “Battesimo Contradialo”

One night walking back from aperitivo, my host family was discussing their weekend and asked me if I wanted to come to Giorgio’s, the baby’s, baptism that Saturday. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and replied “Sì, certo!!” They were very happy I said yes, but began explaining that this wasn’t a regular baptism.

First they told me it was a “pagano” baptism. With an obviously confused look on my face as I was trying to figure out if I had really heard “pagan baptism,” Donatello tried to explain the meaning of the word pagan to me. I was more hung up on what a pagan baptism was (what kinds of rituals would take place?) as opposed to the meaning of what Donatello was saying. Next he tried explaining that it would be a group baptism and lots of babies born that year would be baptized. This only added to my confusion, but after failing to understand for a full five minutes, I decided to let it go and see what would happen on Saturday.

It has been fun navigating the misunderstandings so far. Oftentimes, like the “pagan baptism” situation, I don’t necessarily have a problem with understanding the individual words; I just don’t understand the cultural context or the general gist of the situation. To make matters more complicated, my host family usually doesn’t understand what I don’t understand. In class the next day I asked my professor what she thought, and she immediately realized that I would be attending a contrada baptism.

Every summer each contrada has a festival week, which begins with the baptism ceremony to celebrate their patron saint/Mary. Onda celebrates Our Lady of the Visitation. Anyone joining the contrada that year has to be baptized into it, and you can only join one contrada. The picture I included above is Giorgio being baptized. In the image you can see the special scarf being tied around Giorgio. Every member of the contrada receives this special silk scarf at their baptism and wears it to contrada events and to be “patriotic.” The picture below is the contrada dinner celebrating the baptism. The whole community comes out to celebrate all the baptized babies.