All I want for Christmas… is a sheep

Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) is a relatively recent Christmas companion for us Italians. Owing to our Catholic roots we celebrate our Saints around Christmas time (Sant’Ambrogio, on Dec. 7th and Santa Lucia, on Dec. 13th) or witches (the Befana – an old woman who delivers gifts to ‘good children’ and coal to the ‘bad ones’ on Epiphany Eve). The crib – in Italian Presepe – is more familiar to us since 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi, back from the Holy Land, decided to represent the Nativity.

Our family sets up every year a very traditional Presepe. We are aware that historical truth is against us when we place the manger above a thick moss floor under a brown paper cave (discarding sand which, incidentally, we have plenty of in our sea-side Pesaro). We also go against the grain when we place two cows and two donkeys in the manger instead of the traditional one of each, but we all think that Baby Jesus will be warmer with four of them. Then we arrange all traditional little statues: the woman at the well, the fisherman, the shepherds and, most of all, lots and lots of white sheep. It’s not really Christmas without a bunch of white sheep, you know. Every year I get a new sheep for my collection and I can hear the Little Prince’s voice echoing: ‘draw me a sheep… if someone wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists’. No matter what you think about it: Merry Christmas!

Babbo Natale è un recente acquisto per noi italiani che siamo sempre stati più propensi a celebrare i santi (Sant’Ambrogio e Santa Lucia) o al limite le streghe (la Befana). E’ invece nostra tradizione il presepe. In quello della nostra famiglia c’è sempre un surplus di mucche e asini (per tenere Gesù Bambino più al caldo!) ma la pecora è la vera star, essendo le pecore molto più numerose degli umani. Del resto, come diceva il Piccolo Principe: ‘Quando uno vuole una pecora, è una prova che esiste’… o no? Buon Natale a tutti a prescindere!

(From DirceFoglio, Christmas edition, 2017)


  1. Love this post Simona. We have a clay Nativity from the years we live in Spain and it’s the first thing I put out every Christmas time. And in Spain all the large churches and banks (why banks??) downtown have elaborate Nativities with so many figures spread over a large area. We’d always go visit them in December. So I think I can picture you pesepio. The last time we visited Spain I bought 2 sheep to add to our set– I can’t imagine the flock if you add one every year!! Hope all’s well with you and your dear family. hugs from here.

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