I love to hear stories of my parents’ childhoods spent in Italy – their experiences are always so simple, but yet so full of joy even in the face of world crisis. Ones that I cherish the most are those that surround Natale (Christmas). In a world so caught up with the material aspect of Christmas, it is heartwarming to reminisce about the true meaning of Christmas and to relish in the mere simplicity of the season. Even though my parents’ childhood was during World War II, and they suffered from lack of food and money, they still have such fond memories of their Christmas traditions. My mom recalls those Christmases when they did not have a tree, but instead had il presepe (the manger) for the Baby Jesus. Their figurines were all made out of cardboard, but yet they took the time to set up the scene as they thought best to honor the new baby Lord. They would forage in the woods for fresh muschio (moss) to lay over the roof of the cardboard stable, and they would search for berries and other small plant material to decorate the scene. If and when a present would come, it would always be from il Gesu` Bambino (the Baby Jesus), and they would treasure it because they knew it was special. On those special years when they did have a Christmas tree, the ornaments consisted of mandarini (tangerines)! Can you imagine how good their house must have smelled? Fresh citrus mixed with the smell of pine!
Meals at Christmas time were traditional as well. On La Vigilia (Christmas Eve), they always had a fish meal…and then after midnight Mass, they would come home to some brodo (broth) to warm their bones! On these nights, they didn’t get to bed until very late…but they didn’t have to wake up early for any present opening marathons – they were fortunate if the Gesu` Bambino had left just one present. But they didn’t seem to mind – they were happy just with the feeling of the special day surrounded by their family and friends. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to have that simplicity again, instead of feeling stressed over getting the right gift for everyone on your Christmas list, and rushing around with all the crazy mobs in the stores and on the streets? If we just stopped to realize that Christmas isn’t about how many presents are under the tree, but instead about sharing the love of family and friends and savoring in the realization that you don’t need the material objects to feel the true meaning of Christmas.
Buon Natale, cari amici del blog, e spero che lo spirito della stagione vi riempie di gioia.
Merry Christmas, dear blogging friends, and I hope that the spirit of the season fills you with joy.