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      The 101 on “a righea”

      Apr. 16, 2013

      Once again Easter has come and gone. Left over chocolate eggs have been frozen and await moments of inspiration. The memories of la gita fuori porta, il picnic, will linger on until the spring finally sets in and outings in the open air become the norm of beautiful spring and summer days.

      In Italy, Easter Monday, la Pasquetta, is a holiday usually celebrated by going out with friends to rejoice about the nice weather that is coming by eating home made food. An old saying predicts that Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (Christmas with your family and Easter with whom you want). Although Easter Day is usually spent with family and relatives, Easter Monday is the day you spend with your friends eating good food and playing fun games.

      One such game, played throughout the Easter holiday in north east Italy, is an old tradition whose origins are still a mystery, involving, among other things, rolling eggs, clay and a pinch of salt. This game is called A Righea in the city of Vittorio Veneto, nestled on the hillside of the province of Treviso, but it is known with different names all over the adjacent areas. The variants are rigolana, rodolet, rodoleto, rodoleto col cop, and rodoleto coe rive. It consists of an egg rolling pitch that can be round or oval in shape, having a diameter between one to three/four meters. In the old days the material used to build a righea was easily found in the Italian countryside: stones, clods, clay and sand. Because the game was played by all, it was also built by all the members of the community as mutual help and collaboration were big components of everyday life in the countryside.

      The preparation of a righea took time and dedication and occupied people during the days leading to Easter. How to make a righea represented knowledge that was passed down from one generation to the next: young people would prepare it supervised by the elders. Once the shape of a righea is created, the clay is polished as to render the surface as smooth as possible. It is also dusted with sifted ash or with marble dust as the surface needs to be cleaned and smooth at all times during the game.

      Children had fun preparing their personalized eggs that are hard boiled and then coloured. In the old days the colours came from nature, using the skin of onions, herbs and leaves that were abundant in the countryside. Today we use food colouring. While children were preparing their own eggs, mothers would bake traditional Easter cakes.

      But how do we play righea? Well, there is a judge, usually an elder with experience and knowledge who uses a ranzin, a long thin stick that has a loop at the very end used to pick up the eggs from a righea. The judge, el ranzinier from ranzin, determines the turns, or if an egg has been touched or not. His decisions are never challenged. The players, taking turns, roll their eggs into a righea trying to touch the eggs of the adversaries or the coin that has been previously tossed in a righea. In a way this game is similar to a combination of bocce and pool. The players need to dent the eggs of the adversaries but not their own. The touched egg, called ovo cicà, is removed by the ranzinier and the player has now to start from the beginning with a new egg. An egg that is brushed against is also considered touched and is thus removed. The winner is the player who can get all the other eggs out. And if your egg is dented, it means that the moment has arrived to take out your pinch of salt, peel your egg and eat it!

      This year, 15 righee were prepared in the area between Vittorio Veneto, Conegliano, Colle Umberto, San Fior and San Vendemiano as part of the event called Andar per borghi a visitar righèe. It was also taught at local schools visited by some of the elders that shared with the students their knowledge, skills and tips about a righea. These experts know that the shape of the egg you are going to play with is very important and makes all the difference in the game. If you need to touch an egg that is in the middle of a righea, then you need an egg that is round like a ball, called ovo da mexo that will roll smoothly to the centre. If instead you need to touch an egg close to the sides, you need a pointed egg, ovo da banda.  In mid-1990s, the righee were also judged for their quality, form, smoothness, presence or lack of, of their typical accessories, such as for example, el ranzin, and by their look. The best righea would receive a silver egg.

      Also in the mid-1990s, a righea was featured in Canada at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the Children’s Museum in Ottawa. It was suggested and organized by Luciano Pradal, a prominent figure in the Italian-Canadian community of the capital, and the local section of the Trevisani nel mondo Association. Luciano, originally from Vittorio Veneto, the heart of a righea tradition, came to Canada in 1966 at the age of 24. Luciano is well known for bringing the tradition of roasting chestnuts to Ottawa, but he is also a great promoter and supporter of other traditions of Italy, especially of the province of Treviso. In 1996, from March 31 to April 8, a righea, colourful eggs, traditional Easter cakes and cookies from all over Italy filled the square in front of the Children’s Museum. Children could die their eggs to use them in a game of righea. The event and related activities had great success and the square was filled with laughter and smiles!

      Why not trying to make your own righea next Easter?

      One Response to “The 101 on “a righea””

      1. Perfetto! These submisions and commentaries are what keeps my Canadian
        Cuore Italiano alive.

        Please keep these
        publications coming…