At 8p on Christmas Eve night, there is a huge bonfire lit in Sicilian cities. They say it is to welcome the birth of Baby Jesus. They also say it is to rekindle in the dark times the light and heat of family and community. It was very interesting being a Pagan in the center of a “Christian” ritual that obviously came from ancient pagan traditions. As the priest prayed, everyone crossed themselves….everyone but me of course. And all recited together the Lord’s Prayer in Italian…everyone but me of course. Imagine the disappointment felt by the devout Catholic man standing next to me when the holy water being flung by the praying priest doused my face instead of his! Poor guy. If I had known my spot would be the chance recipient of such a blessing I would have traded places with him. Earlier today I saw that a bonfire was being built in the little town of Santa Maria La Scala when I went there for lunch. The poor little fishing village built their fire out of old boats and furniture; whereas, the wealthier city of Acireale built theirs out of tree logs as big as me!! Yet the spirit of welcoming the birth of the Sun/Son is the same no matter the size of the fire or the community; a truly moving experience. I was amazed at the size and intensity of this bonfire! I’m very glad I got to watch the Light being welcomed in such a way! Call it Sun, or call it Son, it matters not to me as long as light and heat increase! I’m tired of being chilly all the time.
My new friends informed me of a “Pranzo di Natale” being served at the masseria owned by their in-laws. Being a big fan of the huge holiday luncheon feast, I of course asked if they would include me in their reservation. Masseria Santa Lucia is amazing! I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful old building, the orchards, the yards, and the view of Mt Etna. Nadia, a member of the owning family and wife of my friend’s brother Silvio, is truly gifted! The menu was full of traditional Sicilian dishes, the tables ornate with elegant holiday trimmings, and the overall atmosphere never let you know that you were eating with 140 other people. Usually the masseria is booked for special events such as weddings and reunions. If I understood Silvio correctly, the fields of citrus trees (alberi di agrumi in Italian) surrounding the masseria were once grape vineyards and wheat fields. Now that they have been converted to producing citrus, the business is once again flourishing. My friends told me that in the spring and summer months, there are rooms available for long-term rental. I’ve included lots of photos for you to enjoy, both of the establishment and of the meal. The wine there is truly unique in my experience. Yes, it is Nero d’Avola but it is blended with a white wine that gives it a gentle and smoky flavor. It was very enjoyable. Here is their website, which is only available in Italian. You can right click on the page and select “translate to English” for a rough translation to give you an idea of the history: http://www.masseriasantaluciaeventi.it/
I hurt my back running the vacuum cleaner the day after Christmas! That’ll teach me to stop cleaning house. HA! I’m glad to have a few days to recover before any New Year’s Eve excitement. Alternating hot & cold over a castor oil pack has definitely helped, as have the essential oils and canna-salve. Still, this is day two of being out for the count and I’m getting bored of just sitting in the apartment! I want to go out and eat something! Sigh. Great surprise though! My friends at Masseria Santa Lucia sent me a huge bag of oranges from their orchard! I’m so excited. Here in Sicily I’ve tasted the best citrus of my life!
On exhibit here in Acireale is a Napoletano Presepe, advertised as one of the largest and most elaborate in Italy. It was astounding! I’ve included lots of photos for you. I searched the website of a company that makes such figures and I can’t find the witch in any of their inventory. Sigh. I sure would like to have her! http://www.presepenapoletano.it/
*Warning: there are going to be a lot of photos in this blog!!*
New Year’s Eve: When I ate at Locanda degli Abbatazzi last week, Salvotore asked me if I would like a table at the Cenone di San Silvestro, to which I of course responded with an enthusiastic yes! WOOT! He was sweet to give me the window table, tavolo panoramico. I was the only one there eating alone but I’ve gotten used to that. Ha! Salvo welcomed us all as if we were family, making sure we were comfortable and had water & wine for the meal. I was also the only person there that night to drink red wine. ~giggles~ I know it is against custom to drink red with fish but my palate for white wine is very limited. I like moscato spumante and that is about it. But Salvo didn’t miss a beat as he graciously poured me a pitcher of their house red. I’m such a hillbilly. The grand dinner was almost completely from the sea! I’ve included lots of photos of both this meal and the Pranzo di Natale. I’ve captioned each one and apologize for the poor lighting in the New Year’s Eve dinner pics. I was seated between the light and the camera so the plates are somewhat shaded. After this lovely meal I walked home in a haze of salt peter smoke from all of the firecrackers lit in the streets. I’m deeply grateful for this past year with all of its challenges and blessings. I’m looking forward to next year! Oh wait, it’s already next year! Ok, I’m off to bed.