christmas stories, gorgeously illustrated by luana rinaldo, is a collection of festive favourites, including the nutcracker and the nativity. here, luana shares a christmas story of her own.
christmas for me is tied with waiting, expectancy, twinkling lights and a touch of magic. and food, of course. mom and i decorated the windows with red ribbons and mandarins, the fir tree and a terracotta nativity scene. baby jesus figurine had to patiently wait in a drawer 'til the 25th, all wrapped up in his cradle made of a walnut shell. my favourite figurine of the crèche was - and still is - a tiny lamb: i always made sure to position it very close to the crib, in the very middle of the action.
it was baby jesus who brought us presents, as we had no father christmas. besides, as my father's name is natale (christmas in italian), i could boast that father christmas was living with us all year around. trying to catch baby jesus red-handed bringing us presents, my brother and i used to drink 12 small glasses of water just before going to bed on christmas eve's night, guaranteed to be awake very early the next morning. goes without saying that we never managed, but we had our suspicions.
in italy, the three wise kings are somehow replaced by befana, an old lady riding a broomstick through the air, carrying candies and little gifts. befana was actually asked by the three kings to join them and visit baby jesus but she declined, saying that she was too busy cleaning the house. later, she changed her mind but, unable to find the baby, she keeps on searching and when she comes to a house where there is a child, she leaves a gift.
if the child was good, she fills the stocking – left purposely on the corner of the bed – with candies and sweets. otherwise, she adds a lump of black (sugar) coal. we used to receive the usual mix of sweets and coal, but i recently saw 'coal-only' stockings on sale: i guess naughty must be the new good.