Wednesday, December 8

The 12 Days of Christmas + 5?!

Unlike the Americans, who launch Christmas somewhere around August (in stores, not in sunny dispositions), today officially marks the beginning of the Season to be Jolly, or, in the very least, the day we all celebrate the dogma of that most incredible event, the Virgin Mary's own Immaculate Conception.  In a country where in vitro is practically illegal, where surrogates are disallowed, and where single women are not even allowed to adopt, I wonder what our Virgin Mary would actually say about the whole state of affairs.  Nonetheless, we are all enjoying the day off.
Lest you think this is a holiday taking place since biblical times, think again.  It actually came into being in 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared this the day that we at least stopped to pause to consider that Mary was also conceived without original sin.  I'd love to extend this benefit to every other beautiful innocent newborn baby, and then, I'd really have something to celebrate.
In the meantime, I'll refrain and start to consider what the 12 days of Christmas actually pertain to, as long as I don't have to hear the song that goes along with it.
Buone Feste!
 After they chopped down all the 
umbrella pines in Piazza Venezia, we can now
feast our eyes on the stunning pine tree 
placed there for the holidays

picture from Alemanno 2.0 blog


Dave514 said...

A little historical input In olden days, before Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, there was St. Martin's Lent starting on his feast day Nov. 11th till Christmas.

St. Martin of Tours, was not a Frenchman but the born the son of a Roman Tribune in Pannonia. He was HUNGARIAN!!!

Irreverent Italy said...

he sounds like Sarkozy - did he also have a penchant for nude models?

CelesteD said...

I will never forget my third grade nun explaining "original sin." She drew a big circle on the chalkboard and said, "this is your soul" and then put a big ugly mark in the center of it and said, "and this is the original sin you're born with. And then you're baptized..." - and voila! - "your sin is gone!" (erases big ugly mark). uffah.

mmtmrb said...

"classic" is all I can say without offending too many people!

CelesteD said...

oh, I got more where that came from...

Irreverent Italy said...

p.s. I recently celebrated Saint Martin's Lent = big holiday for the Venetians. They sell & market these amazing amazing huge cookies depicting him on horseback. I probably ate about 6 of him...

I believe it's the same St. Martin depicted in a chapel in Assisi, as his life mirrored that of Saint Francis - when he got off his horse to give his cape to a poor beggar...

Not sure about the Venetian connection.

Dave514 said...

I Think you may suffer from a slight case of Dyslexia as follows:

The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus on 8 December 1854.
It's easy to switch the last two numbers around, I do it all the time.

The Duomo in Lucca is dedicated to St. Martin.

His birth place was Szombathely in Western Hungary near the Austrian border. I first encountered him at my best friend's school in Hungary the famous Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma. This Archabbey governed by an Archabbot who is also a bishop once ruled over and Abbey of over 300 monks and many smaller abbeys.It is situated on a hill due South of Gyor. It was founded by King Saint Istvan in about 1000 BC. It's well worth a visit.

papiano said...

The strain of the incredulity of the Immaculate Conception shuts the country down for the day.Hope everyone took advantage of the free day and went to church!

Dave514 said...

Eh, papiano:
"The strain of the incredulity of the Immaculate Conception shuts the country down for the day."

What strain?

I thought, Il Duce, made them run on time...LOL!

Dave514 said...

Here's your Venetian connection:

San Martino

In Italy, the feast day of San Martino (St Martin) is traditionally the special day to reopen government sessions and schools, and to sign leases. It is also a day for pastries, such as the butter-horn of Venice, the Sicilian sfinci (potato fritters) and the three-times-baked biscotti di San Martino, also from Sicily.

La Festa di S. Martino a Venezia

Doing the St Martin in Venice, Italy

“[Children] have a tin and ask for money, and it is traditional on the day to have pastries in the shape of St Martin on his horse either made of shortcrust pastry or made out of a paste made with mele cotogne, which is those funny looking apples that look a bit like pears and have a strange tangy taste …

“In Venice and surrounding areas ‘Far San Martin’ (doing Saint Martin) was equivalent to ‘Far Massaria’ or move house, as it was typical to move to a new property on that day.

“These are some of the verses sung on St Martin’s day in Venice. Children would usually go from house to house, or shop to shop wearing a cape and beating on makeshift drums in order to get some treats. Unfortunately, such custom has nearly disappeared. All the verses are in the local dialect (Venetian).
Questa xe la sera bela,
Che se sta in canton del fogo,
Coi maroni atorno, atorno,
E con un bon bozzon de vin,
Farghe viva a San Martin. This is the lovely night,
When we sit beside the fire,
With the chestnuts all around,
And a good bottle of wine,
To celebrate St Martin.

Another goes like this:

San Martin xè andà in sofita
A trovar la so novizia
La so novizia non ghe gera
'L xè cascà con cul per tera
El s'à messo 'n boletin
Viva, viva San Martin. St Martin’s gone up to the loft
to visit his betrothed
His betrothed wasn’t there
He fell with his arse on the floor
He’s put on a ‘boletin’ [he’s naked]
Long live St Martin.

Children used to go around shops asking for treats, singing the following:

Oh che odori de pignata!
Se magnè bon pro ve fazza,
Se ne de del bon vin
cantaremo San Martin
S.Martin n'à manda qua
Perché ne fe la carità
Anca lu, co'l ghe n'aveva
Carità ghe ne faceva.
Fe atenzzion che semo tanti
E fame gavemo tuti quanti
Stè atenti a no darne poco
Perché se no stemo qua un toco! Oh what smell from the pots!
If you eat, good health to you,
If you give us some good wine
We will sing St Martin.
St Martin sent us here
For you to be charitable
He too, when he had
He was charitable.
Beware, ’cause there are many of us
And we’re all hungry
Beware of not giving us too little,
Otherwise we’ll be here for a long while!

There were two endings to this song. If they received what they thought was sufficient, they would end up singing:

E con questo la ringraziemo
Del bon animo e del bon cuor
Un altro ano ritornaremo
Se ghe piase al bon Signor
E col nostro sachetin
Viva, viva S. Martin. With this we thank you
For your generosity and good heart
We’ll come back another year
The good Lord’s willing
And now with our little bag
Long live St Martin.

If they didn’t get what they hoped for, they would conclude the song this way:

Tanti ciodi gh'è in sta porta
Tanti diavoli che ve porta
Tanti ciodi gh'è in sto muro
Tanti bruschi ve vegna sul culo. As many nails are in your door
So many devils may take you
As many nails there are in this wall
May you get boils on your ass.

(Source: Almaniac Sylvia de Vanna in correspondence to Wilson’s Almanac, with much thanks)

Irreverent Italy said...

@Papiano - I know it strained me! Stayed in bed (even though it was a beautiful day & all the museums were open)..

@Davide - thanks! Looks like another occasion of Trick or Treating. No wonder Halloween has totally taken off.

...and for a very very bizarre reason, we were actually debating last night the benefits of celebrating a Thanksgiving in Italy....??

Dave514 said...

Halloween, reminds me of a quote by David McCallum in an episode of my favourite TV show, NCIS. He said that Scottish children would go around "Trick or treating" differently,tThey would knock on your door and when opened would say, "The sun is bright the grass is green, may we have our Halloween?" It's much more eloquent and elegant than, "Trick or treat."

Jacques said...

I always understood the "12 days" as the period between Christmas and the Epiphany (or Befana, here).

As to San Martìn, my little six year old daughter had such a blast with the filastrocco
"San Martin xè andà in sofita
A trovar la so novizia
So novizia non ghe gera
'L xè cascà con cul per tera..."
Since every time she got to the line with "cul" ("ass"), actually pronounced more "cuìo" in Venetian dialect, she snickered as it is one of the first times she has been allowed to use a "swear" word without getting reprimanded...
There are actually two separate endings (which I don't personally know to repeat), one for when the children get a good "treat" and another (which is supposedly *very* vulgar, even by Venetian limerick standards) for when the San Martino contribution is "cosa non gradita".