Sunday 19 December 2010

A real life nativity

The nativity is a popular Christmas tradition in Italy. Sure, in Australia we put a little manger under our Christmas tree, with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus etc... but here in Italy it is a whole different matter. At Christmas time people make elaborate nativities in their homes, and sometimes whole villages get turned into a giant nativity scene.

Bel fidanzato has created a beautiful nativity in our apartment, using - as most people do - bits and bobs that you find around. The ground is covered with dirt and moss collected outside, the 'mountains' are these wooden/bark things that are decoration in our home and the scattered snow is good old flour. The trees are branches, and the grotto in the corner are rocks from our future home. The little houses are 'borrowed' from the in-laws since this is our first Christmas here, and we haven't had time to make our own houses! Mary and Joseph are yet to make an appearance as they are out and about with the donkey of course searching for a place to have the baby Jesus (and we haven't got them yet!)

This is my second Christmas in Malito. Last year bel fidanzato and I were nice and warm in Australia, and two years ago I celebrated my first Christmas here. Bel fidanzato took me to Panettieri , a small, mountainous town on a cold, pre-Christmas night to see life size presepe - nativity. The town itself is small, and not too far from Malito kilometres wise, but to reach it we had to drive for what felt like forever up steep, curvy, dark mountainous roads.

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I was amazed that this tiny village, literally in the middle of no where was host to this Christmas tradition. They had turned the entire old town into a life size nativity scene. It was beautiful. We paid a small entrance fee and then we left to follow the one way system around town. The streets were lined with hay, candles and open flames lit the way and the normal street lights were all covered with hessian sacks creating an authentic atmosphere. Town folk were dressed in costume and wandered the streets, each acting their part.

Many 'houses' were open for us to walk inside. The majority of these houses were magazzini which are storage rooms. Most Italians have a magazzino which they use to store wood, the years supply of bottled tomatoes, wine, oil etc... These storage rooms are often very large and can be attached to your own home, or close by. These rooms were turned into shops for the evening, such as a shoe maker, cheese maker, baker etc... with the villagers demonstrating how these shops functioned back in biblical times. They didn't give demonstrations as such - if you wanted to talk to them and ask questions then you could, but the village was an open-air play with all of the 'actors' going about the daily routine of years, and years ago.

They even had gorgeous ponies that you could pat - well I was patting them anyway.

And at the end, the nativity town was complete with the manger, Maria (Mary), Giuseppe (Joseph), an empty cradle for Jesus, little angels and even the donkey.


Gil said...

I is really great to see these ancient traditions still being observed! Thank you for such an interesting story and beautiful pictures.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

This is one of my favourite Italian traditions. I've never seen a real life presepe like this but I love the little miniature ones they have here in Perugia.

I've tagged you in a post on my blog - don't feel obliged to play along though x x

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Gil,
It really is beautiful that these traditions are alive, especially in this little, out of the way town.

Hi Sarah Elizabeth,
If you get the chance go and see a real life sized prespepe - it's beautiful.
Thanks for the tag too, sure I'll play along!

Anonymous said...

OMG, I looove these pics!
this blog is amazing!!!!
complimenti :)