To the Editor:
I grew up in Pontelandolfo, a small picturesque town in Southern Italy, nestled on the slopes of the Apennine Mountains.
Christmas was a very religious, family-oriented celebration. It was a time of reflection and spiritual preparation. Most families prepared for the birth of Jesus.
Every year special musicians, the Pipers came to our town to regale us with their bagpipe music. They would walk around town, playing Christmas Carols for all to enjoy. Then on the 24th they would leave to go back home to their families.
On the day before Christmas, most mothers would be busy preparing a delicious evening meal to be enjoyed by the whole family. Later, most adults would go to the midnight mass celebration and witness the birth of the baby Jesus.
As children, we all tried our best to behave and keep out of trouble. We waited anxiously for the Feast of the Epiphany, on January 6th, when the three magi brought their presents to baby Jesus. On that anniversary a wonderful old lady, La Befana, brought presents to all good, polite children.
All year long we had been reminded to be good, so that the Befana, on the Epiphany, could reward our good behavior with nice presents. We always hung our knee-high woolen socks, ready for her coming…she never failed us.
According to our behavior, we found apples, oranges, candies, dried figs and walnuts. Sometimes even a hand-made toy. Invariably my stocking always held charcoal in the toe-end, a signal that I had been a bad boy.
But my mother was very positive and encouraging. La Befana had brought me charcoal which we needed to cook our noon meal. She still loved and cared for me. I only needed to improve. Happy Epiphany to all.
Rocco M. Calabrese