Monday, December 20, 2010

Polytheism Christmasism

I am officially a polytheist of Christmas. Like those that worship many gods, this Christmas I shall worship many of the 'present givers'.

Traditions regarding the exchanging of gifts vary from region to region in Italy; and this takes place either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Why not both I say! Presents are left for good children underneath the Christmas tree either by Santa Claus (called Babbo Natale) or, according to older traditions, by Baby Jesus himself. Personally I am a little confused how a baby can carry the toys, but then I guess if Santa can fit down every ones pretend chimney, anything is possible...

In some areas of Italy children might receive gifts earlier. St. Lucia is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse (Sicily), where she was born; she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones the night between December 12 and 13. She arrives in the company of a donkey and her escort, Castaldo. Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, (how very Italian) some flour for the donkey, (carrots would probably be more appropriate) and bread for Castaldo. They must not watch Santa Lucia delivering these gifts, or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them. (Surely, "Please don't tell anyone you saw me", would suffice.) If I knew about this one earlier, it definitely would have been a new family tradition.

In some areas of Italy children may receive gifts later. "La Befana", the 'benevolent hag', (I think 'charitable biddy' sounds less intimidating), is said to bring sweets and gifts to good children and charcoal or bags of ashes to naughty children. In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve, (the night of January 5) in a similar way to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus. The hag has been hit with the ugly stick and looks more like left over merchandise from Halloween, she delivers on a broom not a sleigh, therefor I am presuming that she can not transport the quantity of gifts that Santa is capable of producing?

On the 6th of January decorations are usually taken down, and in some areas female puppets are burned on a fire (called falò), to symbolize, along with the end of the Christmas period, the death of the old year and the beginning of a new one. I am still unsure as to why male puppets are not burnt also, maybe it is like a modern day 'burning of the bra' type thing?

So with faith being held in '3 new givers' this year, I have hopes that I may even receive a surprise myself. Grasping at all straws, I am officially celebrating an Australian/ Italian Christmas.

  1. We will leave an empty stocking on our children's bed for baby Jesus to fill.

  2. Santa will get a plate of Australian Tim Tam chocolate biscuits and a Scotch Whiskey, also oats will be left for the reindeer.

  3. We will all wear goggles to protect our eyes from thrown ash and we will 'Hang a Hag', (sounds like a line from a Quentin Tarantino movie), in hope for a visit from La Befana.
Buon Natale and a very Merry Christmas!

No comments:

Post a Comment