If you ever want to know how much freedom you have lost with regard to celebrating Christmas, come to Italy! On every corner there is a miniture or even life sized nativity scene. Each store window is beautifully dressed, and ancient lanes provide surprises of donkeys and hay and parts of the Christmas story written on the wall for passers-by to stop and recall each step of this lovely story of the birth of Christ.
And it doesn't all happen on one day. Yesterday was 6 th of January....or, in other words, the visit of the Maji. We walked into the historic part of the town and it wasn't just the baby's eyes that lit up when we saw the lights in the town square.
Three elders of the town were dressed as "wise men" and they led a procession from one corner of the square to where "King Herod" was standing on some steps. At this point the story was told of how Herod wanted to go and kill all the "little boys!" which sent the boys delightfully screaming and running to hide behind parents.
From there we all prossessed into the church, with the priest continuing the story. By the altar sat "Mary and Joseph" (young parents with newborn dressed in swaddling clothes- well, a blue cloth) who told a little of what it was like to be "new parents." Then the older children were given the opportunity to ask the wise men a question or two. The first question was "Do you like being a maji!" Lots of laughter, family milling around talking (even on mobile phones) and then sweets handed out.
It wasn't too long before a "witch" arrived to distract the children and handed out more sweets/candy....and we had to think....where did that come from in the story!