Happy Holidays 2013

Five-level presepio at Parrochia Santa Dorotea in Trastevere. The manger is on the bottom level.

Five-level presepio at Parrochia Santa Dorotea in Trastevere. The manger is on the bottom level.

In almost every Italian home at Christmas you will find a presepio—a Nativity scene or a Christmas crib. Some presepi are enormous with life-size figures; some are so tiny that they fit into an egg shell. Some are elaborate with several floors over the manger, picnics in the adjacent yard, pots and pans, and food galore; some are simple with only Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. You really must have a presepio if you live in Italy, and we do.

We bought our presepio at the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona in 2011. Our original presepio was quite simple with Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, an angel, the three wisemen, a camel, a cow, and a donkey.

Last year I decided to add a pig and a sheep. Because I didn’t take the cow, donkey, or camel with me, I brought home a pig and a sheep that look as if they are on steroids! They are as big as the cow, and they dwarf the poor donkey, but they are such nice figurines! I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so last year they stood guard over the presepio. This Christmas they are guarding our one-foot Christmas tree. Don’t mess with it!

Our presepio today. Note the empty crib.

Our presepio today. Note the empty crib.

This year we’ve gone whole hog, so to speak. I took one of the figurines with me to the Christmas market and got a perfect new pig and three perfect new sheep. I also got two bunnies—an adult and a baby—a rooster, and a bird. They all look very cool. But we had sheep with no shepherds, so we had to add one, right? Of course. We added a shepherd and his son. The shepherd has balance issues (I can relate), probably from carrying a sheep over his shoulder. If I pick the dad shepherd up, I have to hold him lightly for a couple of seconds after I set him down or he topples to the right. I’m sure he’s hoping for a miracle. I know I am.

Other trips to Piazza Navona added a lantern over the Baby Jesus and lights throughout the manger. Three wine barrels perch in the rafters. The barrels don’t have labels, but I’m hoping for a Brunello or some outstanding Super Tuscan. They do age those expensive wines in plastic, don’t they?

P1140659We’ve learned other things about the Italian presepi. The Baby Jesus doesn’t go into the manger until Christmas Eve, because he wasn’t born until then. Our Baby Jesus is waiting in his plastic bag in our silverware drawer until this evening. The magi don’t arrive until Christmas Eve either, and the son of one of my friends marches the magi from their front door on December 8 to the manger on Christmas Eve. He makes sure that the magi arrive exactly on time!

We wish you happy, happy holidays full of lovely traditions, and may all of your pigs and sheep be the right size!


P.S., This post is for our niece Suzie, who asked for presepio photos in 2011. Here they are, Suzie, with lots of love.

Our presepio last year with the pig that ate Manhattan

Our presepio last year with the pig and sheep that ate Manhattan

The old and the new pigs

The old and the new pigs

The life-size presepio In St. Peter's Square in 2011

The life-size presepio In St. Peter’s Square in 2011

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4 Responses to Happy Holidays 2013

  1. Suzie says:

    I was so excited to see your blog this Christmas Eve morning! I still have miles to go before I am ready for Christmas and am feeling a bit overwhelmed. Your photos and story changed my mood immediately! When I started reading, I smiled and laughed at your descriptions and then I cried when I saw your p.s. I love you both so very much and wish that I could give you hugs in person next week. You know we’ll be there in spirit for the joyous event!

    Merry, merry and lots of love, Suzie xoxoxoxo

  2. Suzie made sure that we all saw tis last night at Jim & Margie’s Christmas get together. Loved reading it again today. Beautiful and funny too. Love Diane

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