On January 13 of each year Parma celebrates its patron saint, Sant’Ilario, with a curious mix of ancient public and solemn traditions and other gastronomic traditions. The exact date of the appointment of St. Hilary as Patron of Parma is unknown: he was a theologian, a philosopher and writer, born in a pagan family in the fourth century, was Bishop of Poitiers. During his ecclesiastical career he was exiled to Phrygia, nowadays Turkey, and the legend linked to Parma is linked to this exile.
Tradition says that, returning from his exile in Turkey, Ilario stopped in Parma during an icy winter. During a copious snowfall, a shoemaker noticed Ilario walking, barefoot, through the streets of the city and gave him a pair of shoes. The next morning the cobbler found a pair of gold shoes in the exact spot where the gift had occurred, a sign of recognition by the saint, a miracle desired to honor the generosity of the cobbler. Precisely this legend has given rise to two traditions deeply felt by the city, the Sant’Ilario Prize and the Scarpette di Sant’Ilario. The Sant’Ilario Prize is a certificate of civic merit established by the Municipality of Parma that annually awards citizens and associations who have distinguished themselves in charitable activities, giving prestige to the city and improving the lives of the community, remembering the gesture of great generosity made by the shoemaker parmesan towards the saint.
The other tradition, more popular and linked to gastronomy, is to prepare or buy in pastry shops and bakeries the “shoes of Sant’Ilario”, biscuit-shaped pastry biscuits covered with icing or chocolate and dusted with colored sprinkles, much loved especially by children. A unique tradition that underlines two aspects of the city of Parma and the parmigiani, generosity and love for food.