So here's another little lesson in Catholic folklore: today is the Epiphany, and that's important, or something.
Especially here in Italy, we get a kind of second little Xmas, because the 6th of January is when we get our Christmas stockings. And it's not Santa this time, oh no, it's the Befana that brings them along, an old ugly warty witch-lady that flies around on a broom and drops off the goods. I've told you all my Grandmother is a bit of a Grinch, and that's because when she was growing up no one got any presents on Christmas. Christmas was supposed to be a holy day, so it was supposed to be about Church and a big lunch afterward, in other words a more boring day than most. Because of this the commercialization of Christmas is more evident to her than most, and she just doesn't find it that important. The Befana, on the other hand, is when you really got the goods, so she actually looks forward to this day far more than Xmas.
According to myth, while Jesus was born at midnight on the 24th of December, it wasn't until the night between the 5th and 6th of January that the three wise men finally arrived to Bethlehem, bringing with them all kinds of belated birthday presents for Jesus. That is why the real gift exchanging gets done today, it commemorates the day that Jesus got all his presents too. And what do you know? Last night we had ourselves a bona fide Epiphany miracle.
Remember the mystery of the vanished nativity scene I told you about? Well last night before going to bed my Grandmother starts rummaging around in the only drawer in the whole house I hadn't opened, the one behind the sofa underneath the VCR looking for a lightbulb and pulls her hand out to find a little plastic sheep inside it. I let out a yelp and jump up to look and sure enough every last figurine is accounted for, individually wrapped in tissue paper and laying in that lonely drawer, for what reason only my Grandmother's vanished senior moment could possibly know. Quick as a flash we put it up, the baby Jesus already there, just in time for the wise men to have made it all across the table and up to the manger to give him the goods. Happy freaking Epiphany everyone! Someone inform the writers of the Hardy Boys.
So here it is everyone, the damned nativity scene
I have to say it's hilarious how many different customs there are in different countries despite the fact they are all supposed to be Catholic and thus believe in the same thing. While I was on the plane to Barcelona I was flipping through my Lonely Planet and I came across this interesting little segment on Catalan nativity scenes. It said that it was typical of the region for there to have one of the figurines off to one side.... with its pants around its ankles, squatting and taking a dump. That's right, you read that correctly. It is supposed to represent good things to come for the new year, and many homes even have some kind of wooden animal that they "feed" with bread and water and that shits out presents for the kids on Xmas Day. Now I thought that was the funniest damned thing I had ever read and proceeded to scour the city for the famous shitting nativity scene. But however hard I tried, no matter how many I found, even paying 2.50euro to those thieves to see the display of nativity scenes indicated in the same guide, I decided that the writers of Lonely Planet were pulling my leg and it must have been published on April 1st. Finally, on the very last day of my trip I was walking by a shop window that had a nativity scene on display and, more out of habit by now than anything else, I stopped to have a little look. And that is when I saw it, the shitting little mother fucker! Right there!
Now I just got to get me one to add to my Grandmother's nativity scene over here!