The Christmas Presepio (by Nathan Louis)

The Presepio comes from the Latin word meaning to enclose and today it means manger, a Christmas nativity scene.

Presepi come in all different sizes.

There is the common one of just Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and the kings.

Then there is a slightly more complicated one with more figures in which you may see the inhabitants of Bethlehem.

And then there is one you will see very very rarely that includes the whole town : the market

the travelling hair dresser

the fisherman

the dancers

the marionette show

and strangely enough there are even Christian monks and priests (with red umbrellas.)

There are a couple of curious things including a pasta seller (pasta did not exist at that time),

the clothes are all out of date (the costumes are the styles of about 200 years ago instead of 2012 years ago), there is mozzarella and ricotta for sale (they did not exist in Bethlehem at that period).

The architecture looks like Italian farm houses.  And maybe you will spot the Roman arches, aqueducts and columns, in ruin, when at that time the Romans were in one of their most powerful periods, under the mighty Augustus Caeser.

You do not have to be even a little bit religious to like this kind of presepio as what it shows is a day of a big celebration.

Most Italians without their presepio big or small cannot celebrate Christmas.

And neither can I.

Nathan Louis, author and photographer

 

2 comments to The Christmas Presepio (by Nathan Louis)

  • Nathan Louis, congratulations–this is a fine piece! Those presepi are what I miss most when I spend Christmas in Maine. We have them, yes, but quite sober and puritanical with none of the exuberance of the Neapolitan originals. I’m sure you’ve been to the Certosa di San Martino in Napoli to see the presepi there, but if you go again this year, please say a fond hello to them from
    Your friend, Nancy Jenkins

    • Marjorie

      Dear Nancy, I have never been to the Certosa di San Martino in Napoli and I have never actually been to Naples except for the station of course to change trains. We may be going next week. But it is like being in Naples just looking at our presepio. Love Nathan

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