I couldn’t let another August pass without talking about La Notte di San Lorenzo, the Night of St. Lawrence.
Also called La Notte dei Desideri (the Night of Wishes), August 10 is a special, magical day for Italians, and it can be for you too.
Each year on this night, Italians turn their eyes skyward in the hopes of seeing a shooting star, one of the many that will fall during the Perseid Meteor Shower. Seen near the constellation of Perseus, the numerous stelle cadenti (falling stars) are actually remains of the comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862.
The falling stars are believed to represent tears shed for San Lorenzo during his August 10 burial after he died a martyr’s death in 258 A.D. As deacon of Pope Sixtus II, San Lorenzo had been ordered by one of tyrant Valerian’s judges to offer up the church’s treasures; San Lorenzo presented the poorest of his congregation, and the judge ordered San Lorenzo to be burned alive on a gridiron.
San Lorenzo bravely faced his death and famously said, “I am roasted enough on this side; turn me over and eat.”
And so, on this night, Italians believe that wishes will come true for those who stop to remember the pain suffered by San Lorenzo and with every falling star they say, “Stella, mia bella Stella, desidero che…”
“Star, my beautiful star, I wish that…”
If you really want to get in the mood, have a look at the 1982 La Notte di San Lorenzo:
Then get as far away from city lights as you can, keep those eyes toward the sky, and tell those shooting stars what you most desire.
I won’t ask you what you’ll wish for, but tell me,
have you ever wished upon a falling star?