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An Italian city has the amusing annual tradition of dunking a scandalous politician in the river

It is a comical reenactment of an ancient punishment in which one person is placed in a cage and dunked in the river Adige.

An Italian city has the amusing annual tradition of dunking a scandalous politician in the river
Cover Image Source: Facebook/ Feste Vigiliane - Trento

Many annual traditions happen around the world but this one funny tradition in the Northern Italian city of Trento will take you by surprise. The practice is called Tonca and it is a comical reenactment of an ancient punishment from the 14th to 17th century in which one person is placed in a cage and dunked in the freezing waters of the second largest river in Italy, Adige, reports My Modern Met.

It is part of another celebration that occurs in late June called Feste Vigilane in which people celebrate the town's patron saint.


Before the Tonca comes the Tribunale di Penitenza (Court of Penance) during which members of the "court" name someone as deserving of being dunked in the river and make their case for the nomination. The comedic satire—which features a judge, defense attorney, prosecutor and someone playing the role of the accused—eventually finds some innocent while declaring the serious offenders guilty and condemned to the Tonca as a penalty. Reportedly, Tonca is held on the final Sunday before June 26 when the festivities come to an end. Last year, it happened on June 19 and six people were found guilty.


In today's time, the ones who are nominated are not blasphemers but they might have done something which was scandalous or controversial. While it is mostly politicians who are nominated, this is not always the case. 


Last year, the nominees were the last four presidents of the province for delaying a new hospital and a nurse who was charged with falsifying COVID test results. Not all people are nominated for serious offenses. Two politicians were put up for punishment for their opposition to a concert by popular Italian singer-songwriter Vasco Rossi. 

The final verdict comes a few days later and the ones who are deemed the worst are placed inside the cage. The person is ceremoniously dunked in the river three times, just as it was done in the past.


Talking about annual traditions, El Colacho in Spain is a creative celebration in which the Colacho, a devil-costumed guy with a colorful mask and attire jumps on all infants born within the year, while they are placed on a mattress on the ground outside their home.

According to Christian belief, all people carry original sin as a result of Adam and Eve's rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden and this act apparently absolves the newborns of it. Moreover, its also seen as an important cultural celebration that is part of the town's local history. 


The babies are covered in rose petals and frequently sanctified by the local priest after the Colacho jumps over them before being taken by their parents. However, top Catholic priests have condemned the celebration despite its religious roots. Catholic priests in the region have received instructions from Pope Benedict telling them to avoid participating in the practice as it is against Catholic tradition. 

Despite the controversy, Castrillo de Murcia still carries out its annual Salto del Colacho celebration. It is a tradition that has continued for more than four centuries and is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. 

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