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The "radeca" or agave festival takes place during 'carnival time in Frosinone, and was originally an ancient pagan fertility festival - the agave leaf (due to its shape and size) was a symbol for the male reproductive parts, but the festival morphed into a more important celebration of the heroic revolt by the city’s inhabitants against the French occupation in 1798 - 1799. A protagonist of the episode was the famous French general Jean Antoine Étienne Vachier, known as Championnet.
In the photos (pictured) is a puppet of the French General and his likeness in a painting (taken from Wikipedia).
A previous French General - a horrible man, called Giraban - took awful revenge on local rebels after this initial rebellion by sacking the city, killing innocents and wreaking havoc damaging buildings and churches.
The following year, despite these despicable acts, the locals of Frosinone still felt they wanted to celebrate their Radeca Carnival, but (as a bit of a joke) sent out a message to the newly posted general (Campionnet) that they were organising another revolt. Champoinnet, who was based in Anagni, gathered his troops and set off for Frosinone but when he arrived, instead of finding angry pesants ready for a battle, he found them enjoying their festival. He was both shocked and amused, but mostly amused, and threw himself whole-heartedly into the festivities. He and his soldiers got wonderfully drunk and had a jolly time and it is this day in history that the Radeca reproduces: the arrival of the General in his coach, and ensuing revelries!
This unusual and unique festival takes place on Shrove Tuesday which, this year, falls on 27th Feb.
The merry procession is preceded by a wagon carrying a barrel of wine. Just after that the groups of "radicari" (agave leaf holders), arrive, who are the heart of the parade, followed by a representative of the municipal administration carrying the city standard. Then comes the band, uninterruptedly playing the Carnival song, and finally a wagon drawn by four horses bearing the “rubicund” (ruddy-faced) General Championnet holding his huge belly with one hand and waving to the crowd with the other. Each year a new 'General' is chosen from among the locals.
Most of the participants wave the "radeca" (agave leaf), and some raise up a cauliflower (pantanari), an ancient sign of the peasantry. Bearing these “weapons” they dance to a song that starts out slowly, recalling the injustices suffered and the oppression of the people, which then speeds up in the merrier second part to celebrate the recovery of freedoms. In this more lively phase, the agave-holders and the cauliflower-holders burst into a wild hopping dance, forming various circles, and crying out together: "esseglie', esseglie', esseglie'!" which - in local dialect - means 'he's coming' or 'he's here'.
During the parade, certain rules must be adhered to: they must have an agave leaf, otherwise the violator has to bend over and undergo a certain number of agave-strokes (a whipping). At your first ever Radeca festival you must undergo an initiation which consistes of a light whipping on your shoulders - but only in fun!
If you read our entry on FROSINONE you will see how ill-fated this city seems - having been the target of many attacks through the centuries and having suffered several major earthquakes.