Christmas traditions in every country are so different and a pleasure to discover. Before I left for Italy I was wished an Italian adventure at Christmas; I filed the words away in my head although I did not quite get the whole significance. Now that I am in Italy it is abundantly clear.
Being a lover of churches, I wandered around the old walled city weaving in and out of the tiny steep cobblestone streets which are best negotiated by three wheeled vehicles, Vespas, or tiny cars, which can pass if you press yourself against the stone wall.
I determinedly poked my head in every church (I think there were four as well as the lovely and large Duomo at the tippy-top of the old city). From the piazza in front of the Duomo which towers over the town, the view of the valley is breathtaking. Every church, no matter that there were no scheduled services (the number of priests as everywhere are few for all the churches, so Mass moves each day to a different church to meet the needs of the faithful), had a beautiful and large nativity at the foot of the altar complete with traveling Magi and numerous shepherds and sheep approaching the stable.
Nativities were also the preferred decoration in dress shop windows, fruit sellers’ stalls, cafes and the Poste. Some of these Nativities were obviously local or family heirlooms from another century.
No Santa Clauses or jingle bells were in evidence although there were colored lights and a red lighted Christmas tree in the square. It was all about the Nativity and the birth of Jesus. Wow, this was something!!
My Holy Joy at the birth of the Savior increased at each new church with the same yet different Nativity scene beautifully arranged and draped. Midnight Mass on a clear starlit night was filled with the faithful trekking the steep cobblestones to the Duomo.
The magic of Love and Peace seemed again possible.