Art and culture

Cantè J'Euv The Feast of Eggs Quest

March 30, 2022

Imagine yourself in one of those old farmhouses, made of stone, with wooden floors, crutin and a barn, full of creaks and without streetlights to light the sapel (the road) out front.

On a warm early spring night, you are awakened by some voices and the dog barking down in the farmyard. You grab your oil lamp (who doesn’t always keep one handy?) and rush down the stairs, tripping at least twice over the pants you forgot to button.

Once outside the doorway, you hear a chorus of voices coming from the darkness outside the lantern’s circle of light as the dog growls nervously between your legs.

The words of the song say:

Suma departed from our house
ca i-era ‘n prima sèira
per amnive a saluté
deveé la buhna sèira
We started from our home
that it was the first night
to come and say hello
And say good evening.

Then a figure dressed as a friar emerges from the shadows, almost ghostly in the pale moonlight, and you already imagine that the “good evening” of the song is about to become a“good night.”

Eternal ones though.

But don’t despair! To avoid eternal damnation, all you have to do is go back into the house and bring out some eggs, because you’ve probably stumbled upon one of the oldest and most “langarole” of langarole traditions.

If you look closely in fact, the fratucin (the little brother) is holding a cavagnin (a basket) already half full, and then he is not really a friar, he is the guy you meet every day at the village bar.

And you’ll see that once a dozen eggs have been thrown, the choir you previously heard singing will also emerge from the shadows: mainly composed of young people, it will probably be coming to claim a few bottles of wine.

Good night will probably be given to you by a couple of drinks too many.

(WARNING: the modern-day Cantè j’Euv party is no longer celebrated in this way, so if one night, from the shadows of the farmyard of your isolated farmstead, you see a friar emerge accompanied by a choir hidden by darkness, it is very likely that Are Masche for real, so I strongly advise you to shut yourself up in the house, take the crucifix and stick with the rosary)

A Celebration Without (Too Much) Mythology

Although it had some very deep historical roots (the egg is in fact a symbol of fertility and the occasion fell in spring, the time when the earth came back to life), the Eggs Quest was a festival deprived by mythological or spiritual/religious connotations, unlike many other local traditions, such as Cantè Magg.

One curious aspect of it was certainly that of the redeployment of income: questors, almost always people of little means, went to quest eggs in the richest and thriving farmhouses: in fact, the eggs thus collected were usually used in the following days to make omelets for the “merendina” (late afternoon snack), the lunch in the meadows on Easter Monday usually attended by the whole community, or, in some cases, to raise money to finance the conscripts’ party.

Young people would go out in the evening and, accompanied by a wide variety of musical instruments, wander from farmstead to farmstead, stopping in farmyards to sing and ask for gifts of eggs, a commodity of note at the time.

The Songs


On the Vecchio Piemonte website you can read an interesting consideration about the songs:

The song was therefore for personal use, had no spiritual overtones or even origins in pagan mythology. It was a chant that presupposed a common gastronomic interest, and furthermore had a connotation of income redistribution.

Vecchio Piemonte

Without special costumes and with very often improvised musical instruments, the boys, in fact made it immediately clear what they had come for;

Dene d’euv, dene d’euv
of your galinas
your ausin a l’an ben dic
That the evi the gorbe pine
Give us eggs, give us eggs
Of your chickens
Your neighbors have told us well.
That you have baskets full of them
Dene d’euv, deen d’euv
dela galinha rusa
your ausin a l’an ben dic
That tutu u di ca pusa
Give us eggs, give us eggs
but of the red hen
Your neighbors have told us well.
Which has been brooding all day
O dene, dene d’j oeuv
ma d’la galinha bianca,
your ausin an diso
That chila l’é never tired
Or give us, give us eggs
but of the white hen
that your neighbors say.
who is never tired
.O se voli denr di euv
de la galinha nèira
i-is pasàie Carlevè
sumà la primavèira
Or if you want to give us eggs
of the black hen
Carnival has passed
and it’s springtime

These were then accompanied by “personalizedstanzas, that is, tailor-made for those who were meant to hear them: jokes and good-luck mottos about daughters to be married, widowers, and ladies left spinsters.

After a few songs, the hostess would come down and usually agree to grant the much-requested gift, and the young people would leave singing stanzas of thanksgiving. In wealthier farmsteads, many times questors were invited into the house, where they could enjoy some dishes prepared especially for the Cantar le Uova occasion, and drink a few glasses (or bottles) of wine.

When the eggs were not granted, however, the questors would leave, casting curses-almost always, again, on the daughters to be married who would be left to take the mold.

Other Meanings

In addition to the egg collection, the occasion was also and above all the way the village came together, finally outdoors, after the long winter spent with vigils in the stables.

A moment by sharing, in which the rebirth of nature with spring was accompanied by the rebirth of social life: the Cantè j’Euv was in fact an opportunity for boys to court girls (the mistress’ daughters), and it was not uncommon that weddings were combined precisely because of this festival.

The Recovery of Tradition

Despite its deep rootedness and its many facets of meaning, Cantè j’Euv had all but disappeared by the late 1950s.


It was not until the early 1970s that Antonio Adriano, had the intuition to try to bring it back to life, in Magliano Alfieri and neighboring towns. At the very same time, in Prunetto, a small village in Alta Langa, “Brun,” the leader of the musical group “Brav’Om,” was making the same attempt.

After the experiment of turning Cantè j’Euv into a major international folk festival, attempted by Carlin Petrini in the 1980s, the tradition survives today in small villages, organized by pro-loco and local groups, and even today it also maintains a marked solidarity vocation, as usually the proceeds (if any) from organizing the festival are used to meet the needs of the local community, or donated to humanitarian projects abroad.