“Perdonamose!” Midsummer Snails, John’s Birthday Feast and You.


Thanks for “snail money” as JP called it, and to: GG


Your planet once again is whirling its way towards your solstices, Summer in the North and Winter in the South.  Since the emphasis in Western Civilization has been northern, I’ll stick with that.

In the Northern Hemisphere the June solstice is the day with the most daylight and the shortest night.  It falls every year between 20-22 June, this year on 21 June (05:07 CDT – 10:07 UTC).  This solstice marks the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer (as if we weren’t already getting 90ºF days and +100ºF  heat indices).

On Holy Church’s calendar we celebrate the Vigil of John the Baptist on Saturday, 23 June and the Feast of his Birth on Sunday, 24 June.  Surely the reason we celebrate John near the solstice is because He said “He must increase, I must decrease”, and the ancients knew that at this time of year the length of days began to decrease.

There are lots of fine traditions from different cultures which you might incorporate into your own observances.   I post this some days in advance so that you can prepare.

First, consider having a bonfire (and cookout) on Saturday, the Vigil of the Nativity of the Baptist.  Invite your priests!  There is a special blessing in Rituale Romanum for fires on the Vigil.  After the usual introduction, the priest blesses the fire saying:

Lord God, almighty Father, the light that never fails and the source of all light, sanctify + this new fire, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may come unsullied to you who are light eternal; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

At this point the fire is sprinkled with holy water and everyone sings the hymn Ut quaent laxis which is also the Vespers hymn.  I have more about that beautiful – and historically important hymn – HERE.  You might practice the hymn and sing it.

In some places the bonfire is used for the burning of witches… in effigy.  That could be fun.  The witch connection probably comes from the fact that the satanically inclined or possessed hold the solstice as one of their important annual moments for their vile rites.

Also, I recommend the eating of snails.  This is very Roman. 

Romans traditionally eat snail of the Feast of John the Baptist, and so should you.

If you call yourself a traditional Roman Catholic…well… there’s no excuse.

Also, there is a witch connection with the snails and what Romans ate.

Romans would gather certain plants that were mature by this point, such as what we call St. John’s Wort, along with onions and garlic, which they thought drove off witches and demons.

Near St. John Lateran (named after both the Baptist and Evangelist) there was a little hill Monte Cipollario or “Onion Hill” that was eventually razed in the time of  Papa Lambertini – Benedict XIV.  It seems that lots of onions and garlic were cultivate in that zone.    In any event, the Romans gathered at St. John’s and ate lumache al sugo and greeted each other with the Roman dialect “Perdonamose!” (from “perdono… forgiveness”), a sort of way of mutual apologies and peacemaking.  It may be that the eating of snails comes from the fact, first, that at this time of year there are a lot of them and, next, they have horns, which could have symbolized discord and strife.  Hence, eating them did away with strife and promoted reconciliation.  “Perdonamose!”

To make and mess of lumache al sugo alla romana (aka ‘na ciumacata), you need well-purged snails, of course, along with tomatoes, olive oil, hot red pepper, onion, garlic, (preferably wild) fennel and/or mint. A couple versions I saw included anchovy.  Make your sauce and then add the snails, cook for a while, and serve hot with good bread.  This one is instructive.  So is this. For wine …. why get fancy?  Stick with cold Frascati or another dry white from the Castelli Romani – even Velletri!

If you can’t get your hands on some snails, or enough snails, there’s always THIS… for lots of fun and conversation.   I am not making this up…


US HERE – UK HERE… nope, sorry!

Meanwhile get your canned or jarred snails and start planing: US HERE – UK HERE… nope, sorry again!

Finally, I sure would like to make some snails.  Perhaps some of you readers could pitch in with a small donation?  HERE


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. richiedel says:

    In addition to its nearness to the solstice, another reason why we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24 is that it’s six months before Christmas, the angel Gabriel having visited Mary “in the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s carrying John (Luke 1:26).

  2. LarryW2LJ says:

    I had escargot only once in my life. Maybe it was just me; but I sensed no distinct flavor other than the garlic butter they were served in. I know that people tend to get put off, because their mind’s eye immediately pictures the slime trail that live snails leave. They’re not slimy at all when you eat them. The only thing that I could compare them to (for a person who has never eaten snail) is that they taste a lot like stuffed mushrooms. But again, that’s just my opinion – and admittedly, I don’t have the fine pallet of an experienced food critic.

  3. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Father, stop, you are killing me. Snails in garlicky butter, or is it buttery garlic, to be sopped up with fresh, crusty bread: to die for! My father once went to a restaurant where he intended to have escargot and, having brought a glass jar, put the empty shells into the jar and returned it to his pocket. He then quietly enjoyed the befuddlement of the waiter clearing away the very empty plate.

  4. Andrew says:

    A Romano senatu venit edictum, ut posthac liberum sit cuique vesci, quibus velit. Per me quidem vel LIMACIBUS vescatur, qui volet. (Erasmus: Colloquia)

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