Christmas Eve Andreolese Style circa
1930's and 40's
After the Feast of S.Andrea in November the
attention of the children turned to Christmas Eve. With much anticipation we
awaited the holiday as something very special.
It was special in the
celebration with food (though somewhat simple by today' standards) and the
tradition of having to consume 13 different kinds of food (I tridici cuasi).
The banquet consisted of Stocco and potatoes, zippole, crispiaddhi,
apples that were kept in a net and hung in attic for the specific purpose of
being eaten on Christmas Eve.
I know for a fact that many less fortunate
families did not have 13 different food items and their children were left
to count such things as yeast, oil and even the fire in order to get to 13.
It was customary to make little explosives which adult males would blast
against the walls of houses or the ground sometimes at each other’ feet.
Much of this was done in celebration and to draw attention from the
beautiful Andreolese Girls. It was the ambition of boys to be allowed to
spend Christmas Eve out visiting the various Presepi, which were set
up by enterprising young men in order to earn spending money. Nicola Maria
Voci and his brother Don Bruno Voci were the most artistically talented
people in S.Andrea at the time. Their creations were absolutely beautiful
and engaging. Don Bruno Voci every year would make entire villages that
would be dispersed throughout the Presepe .The Presepe was built at the S.W.
corner of the Nave close to the communing railing to the left of the main
altar (Altare Maggiore). It consisted of a huge Nativity with villages and
figurines (Santucci) all going towards Bethlehem. It consisted of
cork that gave the Presepe a mountainous panorama. Roads leading to the
Manger were covered with white scoglio to make it look like snow. The seams
created by the joining of the cork were sealed with moss that gave a very
natural and pastoral look. Suspended from the ceiling was a big star, which
guided the Magi to Bethlehem. The Santucci were scattered throughout the
Presepe (Presiapiu). As children I remember being in awe of the
entire project and followed with interest the progress made by the Magi.
Somehow that intrigued us, even though we knew that they would always arrive
to Bethlehem the day do Vettisimu (Epiphany for the
uninitiated). The design changed every year but the enthusiasm never waned.
That is the way I remember it .it was beautiful in its innocence and I miss
Boys would visit such Presepi and play cards (Briscola, Tressette, Scopa,
Quintiglio) for coffee, which consisted of roasted acorns, or grape seeds or
barley. The Midnight Mass was just that! It started at midnight, and the
Baby Jesus just born would be processione around the Church for all
the Parishioners to see and touch and kiss. The young adults by now were
tired and sleepy and would congregate at the Altar of the Madonna Del
Carmine. Anyone who fell asleep woke up with his face blackened by burnt
cork. The celebration was over when the Arciprete intoned in his
majestic voice "Ite Missa Est".
dec.25 was in essence anticlimactic. The Andreolesi spent it trying to
regain their strength for the following day's Majisi.
As time passes it
seems the things of yore attain a beautiful aura. Perhaps they were not as
beautiful as we choose to remember, but one would have a tough time erasing
those memories from my mind. Am I sentimental? You bet! But I will die
convinced that there was beauty in our innocence and simplicity. After 55
years in America I returned to Italy and S.Andrea only to find America there!
I was disheartened and felt like a child who lost his mother. I looked
around and I knew that I was an orphan for all that was dear to me is gone!!!