Monday, December 10, 2012

Precepe Vivente ~ A Christmas Past

 I enjoy remembering Christmases Past.  One of the things that makes Christmas such a great time for most of us is the cultural traditions that unify us as believers in Christ.  Although some of the traditions vary from home to home, there is a common thread that runs through out.  I like that.  Our traditions are the times in our lives that are marked by special days.  Life would be pretty monotonous without these special times with family and friends.  We have spent two Christmases out of the country.  Once in Scotland and once in Italy.  Both of them were precious highlights, never to be forgotten in our lives.   Here is an edited and updated post from my Italian Blog that I am reposting here to give you the flavor of Christmas in Italy 2010.  It was a joyful, enriching and inspiring time.  This experience really stands out vividly.

The hills and valleys of Italy are filled with The Nativity. It is such a beautiful sight and it has made me realize that here in America, with all of our 'political correctness,' we are doing our citizens a terrible disservice. Not to be able to display the symbols of Christ at Christmas would never fly in Italy. For this alone, I love their country.

People need visual reminders and not a soul in Italy can miss the Christ in Christmas. No matter what their religious beliefs, the degree of activity in their church or the lives they are living~at Christmas time they are reminded over and over again what their compass should be. 

We need this here in America. I like the term 'political correctness' because that is exactly what it is. Political! It isn't ethical, or spiritual correctness and it has nothing to do with what is right or true or good for us, most of the time. In denying the public displaying of the Nativity, we as Americans are shooting ourselves in the foot.  Big time!

That being said and climbing down off my soapbox, I want to share the experience we had on the day after Christmas. In Italy they savor Christmas. They start early and end late with their celebrations. (Whoops, back on the box for a minute.) Often times I have noticed the day after Christmas, all evidence of the money we have $pent during the holidays is removed visually from the malls and market places. Poof, it is gone, and that way it is hoped we will continue to $pend, $pend, $pend some more.  And someone is working Christmas night to make it happened by opening time the next morning. It is all about the retail over here. Not so in Italy. The world should take a lesson.

So we planned to go to a tiny mountain town called Maranola, near Gaeta to see the Living Nativity the day after Christmas. While Christmas had already vanished in the US, this was their opening day. We arrived early so we could stroll around Gaeta a bit.

The harbor walkway of Gaeta

One of the ships Robert had been to sea on while living here.
When JIm and I stayed here for a few days, a window in our hotel room
pened to a full view straight on of the back of the ship.
(Bow, stern, port? I never do remember these!)

The kids arranged a tour for us through the military services to go to see the Presepe and we all bundled up, drove to Gaeta, jumped on a bus and off we went. We didn't have much of an idea of what to expect~except rain. Rain, rain, continual rain. We had pretty much acclimated to that, but had no idea what it would mean to have it raining on this particular night. Can I just say flat out, I didn't like it one bit? At least not when it was happening.

This is a (blue hour, it is actually dark out here) 
view from the head of the line, 
it goes down a few flight of stairs
 to the bottom of the hill.

When we arrived at the ancient little town we saw a big line of umbrellas trailing up to the entrance to the little village. They only allowed so many people up into the village at one time. Crowding under the mass of umbrellas, we waited and wondered what was ahead. Huddling under umbrellas that are overlapping and touching each other is a curious thing. I think you actually get wetter from the run off of the umbrellas around you. Arrrgh! Can we say... grumpy?

Then the music started playing and that soothed me somewhat, even though we were already getting drenched and pretty cold. A man was playing some bagpipes for all to enjoy. It was nice. We looked up and saw little children looking out of their upstairs windows at this phenomenal line of people snaking through their village.  Moving as a crowd we made our way through the tiny streets. In spite of the physical challenges of old, uneven, wet and slippery stairs and walkways, it was wonderful to see the little vignettes they had created to represent the life of the people of Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth.  It seemed we climbed halfway to heaven peering into these little transformed shops, tasting little goodies they had made and listening to them chatter with arms flying everywhere, and singing and playing music.  Everyone in the village participated and it was really an amazing sight. The ruggedness of the venue made it seem so authentic.  It felt like we were truly in Bethlehem!

I had to laugh at the clothes hanging out to dry!
We were drenched to the bone! Seriously my hair
looked like I had just stepped out of the shower.
(No photos, thank you very much!)

The thought of staying in those wet clothes 
for a bus ride and then a 90 minute trip
 to Teverola was not very appealing.
So we tried to push those thoughts
 away and enjoy the evening.  

"It is what it is,"
 went through my mind several times.

We came across a little chapel
near the top of the mountain.

Jim was in his glory with this adventure 
 and even more so when he met some
bonified, Italian boys scouts!

We climbed some more and came across
another ancient place of worship.
Check out the carving behind
Jim on the walls and the 3-D
fresco wall/sculpture below.

Wet kidlets!
The boys look so little here!

At last...drumroll...

What we came for, at the very top of the mountain.
They had even brought a huge ox up here. 
 I don't remember ever seeing a real ox before.
Do you?

Precepe Vivente~The Living Nativity
with the youngest baby of the village
as the baby Jesus
and his parents as Mary and Joseph.

Once down we had our dinner while
waiting for our tour bus to pick us up.
If you haven't tried a picnic on a mountain,
at night, soaked to the gills,
in December, in should!
It is a relief to say, "Been there, done that,"
and then to move on!

Looking back from a nice, warm, dry perspective,
it was a great experience.  This love for Italy is forever!
They really know how to live life, 
enjoy everything and  honor their traditions.
We were so sad to even think about leaving.

La Dolce Vita...
Even when we were wet and cold and shivering.
This memory will bond us as a family for years to come.
We had four generation participating 
with Jim's mom there too.

Traditions, Bonding, Family
are all major components of  a 
Christ-Centered Christmas.

Hope you enjoyed this armchair visit to Italia!
Buon Natale!


Sister Susie said...

What a joy to share in these events with family, friends, and others portraying the events of Christmas! Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories!
Merry Christmas, Susan