June 24, 2022
By: Joanne Natale Spigonardo
If you were born in Italy and Catholic, you most likely always celebrate your l’onomastico, which is also the birthday of the saint you were named after. My birth name is Giovanna, and in my case it is the birthday of Saint John the Baptist, which is celebrated today, June 24th. All the Johns, Joannes, Joans, Giovannis and Giovannas, etc celebrate their name day today as well. St. John the Baptist is recognized throughout Italy as the patron saint of Florence, Turin, and other cities in Italy. There are festivals throughout Italy celebrating Saint John the Baptist in June. I particularly love the amazing parades and celebrations in Florence.
For me the feast day of St. John the Baptist is always a double celebration, because it is a wonderful family tradition to celebrate St. John and his impact on Italy, and the Catholic religion , but it is also my name day. In Italy your name day is just as important as your birthday, and sometimes even more. Warm wishes are sent to you, flowers, sweets, and a preparation of a special family meal. It is a fantastic way to celebrate who you are and your relationship to your saint.
St. John the Baptist is one of the most important saints in the Catholic religion, because of his inspiration from Jesus to baptize him. The fact that St. John was chosen to baptized Jesus is especially symbolic to his ministry and to the sacrament of rebirth. It is the first sacrament we receive as Catholics. The immersion into water is to cleanse and to bring new life into our body and souls. St. John walked along with Jesus in his life, and throughout many Gospel passages. He is an essential foundation of Christianity. I am humbled to be called after him. On his feast day, we pray to St. John to reaffirm our faith, and to relive the promises our parents and godparents made on our Baptism day.
As with all celebrations, we enjoy fabulous food, which includes a pasta dish made with snails. Snails are not easy to find, but there are special seafood stores that have them. Snails are a symbol of St. John and are often depicted in many Renaissance paintings. Our meal also includes the traditional antipasti and salumi of Tuscany, branzino, or other fresh fish and some excellent Tuscan wines. Like all special occasions, there is always a beautiful dessert. On this day, we usually prepare la Schiacciata alla Fiorentina. This is a simple olive oil cake flavored with orange zest and orange liquor. It is sometimes served plain but often filled with vanilla pastry cream. The top is dusted with powdered sugar with a cocoa chocolate lily, the flower of Florence.
I hope I have inspired you to celebrate your own l’onomastico. If it is today, Auguri, and best wishes! These are special days and help us to reflect what our names may mean to us, and what they may have meant to our parents.
About the Author: Joanne Natale Spigonardo
Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, literature, film, history, wine, and cuisine. She is a lover of nature and beauty. She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/White-Widow-Joanne-Natale-Spigonardo/dp/B085DT65DB. For more information about Joanne please visit her LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanne-spigonardo-b4824a9/.