FOLKLORE IN SARDINIA
All island civilizations have a strong
tendency to conserve their own traditions intact, and this fact
is even more evident in Sardinia, an isiand with a mountainous,
rough terrain divided into numerous sub-regions that are independent
from one another. Its language, traditional costumes, music, dances,
and popular religious rituals pertain to a world that lives on and
spontaneously regenerates even though it is situated within a modem
world projected in the future.
The conservation of its own language seems to sanction this attachment to its traditions: almost every town has its own dialect which differs from those spoken in neighboring villages. For example, the Catalan dialect, a legacy from the period of Spanish domination, is spoken in Alghero, while the dialect in Carloforte Calasetta and the Sulcis area is more similar to the Ligury dialect. Even the traditional costumes are the result of customs that developped throughout the centuries within the pastoral communities. For this reason, even towns just a few kilometers from one another have completely different costumes.
The men's costume mainly consists in a hat, a shirt with silver and gold buttons, a vest made of wool, velvet, or brocade, white cloth trousers, and a short black skirt. On the other hand, the women's costume is much more colorful. The kerchiefs on their heads differ from village to village. Their linen or cotton blouses are decorated with tiny pleats and embellished with embroidery, and their skirts are dark-colored, flounced, and ankle-length. Their aprons are very ornate and decorated with priceless embroideries, some even with gold threads, and their costumes are accessorized with brooches, earrings, gold, silver, and corai necklaces, chains, rosaries with precious stones, and lucky charms.
During the grandiose popular manifestations one can admire the splendor of these costumes almost come to life amidst the Sardinian songs, dances, and games. During the island's principal festivities one can see thousands ot persons and horsemen in their ancient costumes. And if these events may surprise for the number of participants, it is even more important to realize that Sardinian folklore is never "just for show"; rather, it is always a moment lived to the fullest, be it for a few days or just a few hours. These extremely colorful events can be divided into two categories: popular celebrations and religious festivities that are often that are often linked to the feast day of the town's patron saint such as the Saint Efisio Festivity in Cagliari, the Celebration of the Redeemer in Nuoro, the Sardinian Horse Race Festival in Sassari, the Sartiglia Festival in Oristano and the Ardia Festival in Sedilo. This last celebration is an exciting horse race down a tortuous slope leading to the church dedicated to Constantine, a saint who was never actually canonized. According to historians, it commemorates the battle fought against the troops ot Massenzio and won by Constantine the Great in Ponte Milvio in the year 312; others sustain this race has more ancient origins, re-enacting agrarian rites ot purification and propitiation. Each popular or religious event becomes a moment of genuine aggregation. Taking part in the processions, listening to the stories of elderly town folk, and awaiting the exit of the faithful from Mass during the holidays to observe how both old and young wear their traditional costumes with such grace and dignity means experiencing a little bit of Sardinian life: original, spontaneous, yet closely tied to its most ancient traditions.