Saint Agatha’s memorial is on 5 February. Saint Agatha does not occupy an outstanding place within the Catholic Church directory of martyrs, although her presence is extensive by and large our popular traditions and dates back to remote time.
We know from the sacred history that Saint Agatha was born at Catania, Sicily, in times of Roman Emperor Trajanus Decius, in either 249 or 250. Quintianus, the prefect of Catania, wanted to take beautiful and bright Agatha as his wife. But if she was to marry him, she had to give up her steadfast profession of the Christian faith. Agatha refused to abandon her religious beliefs, and Quintianus condemned her to torture and put her to death.
Back in the 6th century, Saint Agatha started to be highly venerated by Northern African Christians and worship to her as a saint spread up and down the length and breadth of the Mediterranean region.
Amongst the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts, which is the reason why she is popularly adored as the protector of breast illnesses in particular and women’s afflictions in general.
On top of it all, Saint Agatha’s veneration in Euskal Herria is remarkable, for the annual commemoration of her life is tightly connected to the young population.
The tradition of gathering on Saint Agatha’s eve and going round the village singing from house to house was originally enjoyed by young males only, who would often take the chance to dedicate enchanting stanzas to young girls.
Besides, in Nafarroa and Araba, it was a paramount event for young people, mocería: they would organize a large meeting to elect group leaders. Moreover, they were allowed to carry out certain activities otherwise forbidden, such as bell-ringing.
Those young leaders played a relevant role in all significant events throughout the year (funerals, marriages, local festivities, and so on). The youth has traditionally been to a great extent the main force in village life and in society as a whole.