August 10th: The day of Saint Lorenzo and the night of the shooting stars.
Every year on this night, Italians head to the hills with blankets and loved ones to watch the “stars of San Lorenzo”. It is around this time that the Perseids meteor showers dance in the night sky, allowing Italians to claim a star for their wishes.
This tradition dates back to the mid-200s, when Saint Lorenzo, as it is said, was martyred by being burned on a grill.
The legend is that Saint Lorenzo, as the church of Rome’s librarian and archivist, was thought to have a list of all the members of the early church and hidden treasures. On August 8, in year 258, two days after the Emperor Valerian executed the Pope and deacons, he ordered Lorenzo to produce all the Vatican’s wealth. On August 10, Lorenzo arrived to the palace with all the diseased, orphaned and crippled Christians and boldly told the emperor that these were the true treasures of the Church; and for this, he was executed.
As it is told, Lorenzo was executed by being slowly roasted on a spit. Instead of revealing the Church’s wealth, Lorenzo, while burning on the grill, gathered the strength to tell his executioners “Flip me over. I am done on this side.”
His role in the Roman church made him the patron saint of librarians and archivists. His method of execution made Lorenzo the patron Saint of cooks. And, because of his well-known and clever “Flip me over” line, some also consider him the patron saint of comedians. Therefore, August 10, is the day to celebrate those in all these professions, but more importantly, those lucky enough to be named Lorenzo.
In Italy, the feast day of your patron saint, is honored like a second birthday. I typically spent my summers in Italy. And on Aug. 10, we would gather a group of friends, take blankets and snacks, then head out to the hills to celebrate me, but really to gaze at the shooting stars – or just another reason for a bunch of rowdy teens to get together and have fun. Sometimes we would even have late night barbecues – being that Saint Lorenzo was grilled to death himself. Just a cool and somewhat inappropriate way to celebrate his significance, don’t you think?
So, go ahead, gather your friends, pack up some blankets and head out to an open field to make some wishes!