Friday, December 28, 2012

Memories of Christmas Past

Christmas Tree at Piazzale Michelangelo, Firenze

I was just reading a lovely little blog by a young girl who is traveling in Italy with her family, and it reminded me of the wonderful holiday we spent there last year.  Italy really loves Christmas, the celebration is so wonderful, there are lights, people everywhere and just such a wonderful feeling at this time of year.  After reading Phoebe's post, I decided I would write down some of my favourite things about Christmas in Italy, many of the traditions that have followed us home to Canada.

I was always taken by the abundance of religious iconography around Italy, such as the roadside Madonnas, and at Christmas the main theme was the precepe, or nativity scene.  They were everywhere, some small, some large, some truly spectacular. Some of my favourites are posted here.  I loved how people would set them up on large tables in front of their houses, complete with star covered foil paper, and some were just tucked into a small window sill.

This was set up on the lawn at a house in our village.

This one in a nearby town was life sized stuffed figures.

The lovely coffee shop in Monte San Savino, made of marzipan and profiteroles.

This was on the windowsill of a house on a busy street in Arezzo.

One of very favourites was the one in an old Fiat 500.

This was a beautiful precepe at our good friends, she has carefully collected the figures over many years.  All made by the same craftsman.

This one in a church in Arezzo ran on a sound and light loop that lasted 10 minutes.  There was even flowing water.

In Tuscany they call Santa Claus, Babbo Natale (Father Christmas).  And it seems he is the same as what we have here, but for me, the big star of the holidays was Befana.  I wrote a post about her last year, but as she is pretty fresh in the minds of my children, I decided she could use another mention.  Befana actually doesn't show up until the Epiphany, she flies around Italy on her broom, (but she is not a Witch), taking candy to the good children and 'carbona' or coal to the naughty ones.

Last year we made a felted Befana and the lovely woman in the newsagent where we lived gave us a Befana stocking so we could hang it to be filled on the eve of the Epiphany.  When we went through town on the evening of January 5th, there was one of the village ladies dressed as an old woman, as Befana, riding through town in a cart pulled by a donkey.  The children loved it.  I had one of the children at the preschool even come in the following week with a big container of 'carbona'.  The 'carbona' seemed to be some sort of black honeycomb like candy, I regret now that I didn't try it while I had the chance, and as I had been good, the Befana only left candy for me;)

I am happy to be home and celebrating Christmas and the holidays with friends and family here.  I am happy to bring back some of the great traditions we learned, and I really do look back fondly on our holiday season last year, it was such a wonderful experience.  The lights were amazing.  Oh, and the most amazing Cannoli I have ever tasted.....

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