Celebrations in honour of Sant’Antonio Abate take place on the 16th of January all over Sardinia with the lighting of massive bonfires, which represent the descent of the Saint to hell from where, according to the legend, he managed to bring the fire on earth that was covered with ice. Every village adds something different to the celebrations to fit their traditions; however the trademark remains the fire, which is blessed by the priest and is the centre of the party where people gather to chat, drink and exchange traditional cakes. Throughout the night there is a flow of traditional music and dance. The fire is kept alive until the following night.
In Mamoiada, in the province of Nuoro, the celebrations are particularly interesting for tourists as they coincide with the first outing of the Mamuntones, which are the traditional carnival masks of the Barbagia regions. These masks have ancient origins and represent the mysterious connection between man and animal; they parade on the street following a choreographic step which is almost a dance surrounded by the sound of the heavy cowbells they carry on their chest.