Christmas Eve
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  Versione Italiana

Christmas Eve Andreolese Style

     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 it!
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".
Christmas Day 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!!!

 

The article is by Angelo Iorfida

 

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