It’s strange how most of the main features of the English Christmas turn out not to be particularly English at all!
Reading Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, that quintessential definition of Christmas, one certainly finds a lot of Christmas Spirit which happily overcomes Scrooge’s long-standing Humbug opinion. But several other features are missing. Scrooge, for instance supplies the main Christmas fayre which is a goose, rather the more usual turkey one finds today which is really an import from American Thanksgiving Day. In Dickens’ story there is no Christmas tree, which is a German import introduced by Prince Albert who pined for his traditional Coburg-Gotha festive tree dressing. There is no mention of receiving Christmas cards in Dickens’ tale, which is not surprising as these only became popular towards the later part of the nineteenth century, with an improved postal service. And as for Christmas crackers and funny hats…..
The latest import into the English Christmas is of recent date and may not have found its place in every home celebrating Christmas. This is the nativity crib representing the scene of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the arrival of the Three Wise Men together with many extra characters showing traditional crafts and, of course, including the shepherds and their flock. The reason for the crib’s late import into the English Christmas is perhaps the fact that its origin is due to Saint Francis, the patron saint of Italy, the home of the papacy and the Roman Catholic faith.
Thomas of Celano, biographer of this extraordinary man, stated that “having brought in a manger he carried in some hay, together with an ox and an ass. There he honoured simplicity, exalted poverty, praised humility and Greccio transformed itself almost into a new Bethlehem”.
It was, in fact a living crib such as we, in our part of the world, will be delighting in at nearby Granaiola tomorrow from 1 pm to 7.30 pm (the actual “nativity will take place at 5 pm).
All this first happened in 1223 in, as mentioned, Greccio, a beautiful little town near Rieti in Lazio which is on my list of soon-to-see places.
|For many years Bagni di Lucca’s main industry was the production of plaster of Paris statues and many of these statues were Christmas crib figurines. The industry has shrunk considerably from its heyday in the last century when the bagnaioli emigrated to all parts of the world to sell their wares. (Indeed, one story, depicted on the ceiling of our local town hall, shows a bagnaiolo selling one of his figurines as a souvenir to Christopher Columbus when he first landed in the Americas!)|
In that ghastly stretch of ribbon development fronting Diecimo, mentioned here https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/the-raw-and-the-cooked/ , I saw what must be one the ghastliest edifices in this bit of road…and painted in a sickly pinkish violet!
The sleazily Xmas entrance was not prepossessing and the name of the shop was also not too promising.
I decided to embolden myself and enter.
I’m glad I did for what I saw thumped me with the Christmas spirit in all its force.
If one lacks Christmas crib figures this is the place to go to and what’s more they are not Chinese imports but all made by a local firm, Euromarchi, at very reasonable prices.
I found out that the premises had been empty this year and Euromarchi decided to rent them for a couple of months during the Christmas season as an outlet for their wares which are otherwise hidden in a factory on a side street.
The staff was most obliging and showed me also their working crafts – truly working since each diorama has electric motors which cause their occupants to hammer or saw or pull up a pail.
There are also lots of other Christmas decoration items to choose from.
I didn’t buy anything – our mantelpiece is too small for any further additions to our display on it but I was delighted by this shop which promised so much behind its unpromising facade.
PS Euromarchi’s web site is also in English at