12 November, 2019
Italiano
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Christmas is celebrated in the various part of the world in different ways. In the German-speaking countries the Christmas tree is set up and the four Advent candles are lit. In the Scandinavian countries, where the night is very long, behind each window, candles are placed, as their lights reflecti on the snow and make the night less dark. London, Paris and New York show off more and more beautiful Christmas lights. In Rome too all the traditions are respected with the monumental Christmas tree and the representation of the nativity in St. Peter’s Square.

In Umbria, the tradition of the cri bis dominant. In Massa Martana, cribs are made with all kinds of material, including ice. They come from all the regions of Italy and they are of variouskind: traditional and very modern, classic and abstract. The town of Massa Martana is an evocative setting for the nativity scenes:  every alley and every square celebrates the Christmas time.

The living nativity scene of Marcellano

In the small town of Marcellano, the ancient eastest possession of Todi that still retains the eagle tuderte, is staged every year a picturesque living nativity scene. It i san event which attracts a growing public. The village dates back to the early 1200s, and built inside the castle. For the past thirty years Marcellano has staged the living nativity scene, an event that attracts a growing public. The initiatve involves all the inhabitants of Marcellano who, inside the castle, recreate scenes of daylife as they probably were at the time of Jesus.
Eventually, when night falls, commercial activities stop and on the church square the sacred representation begins. It  starts with the Annunciation. Tourists are pressed in front of the church, then the action moves towards the valley, in the cave where there are the main characters: Maria, Giuseppe and Baby Jesus.
Tourists are still  in the village when the comet star appears, croaking down a line to the cave and leading the way to the Magi Kings. The Magi Kings go to pay homage to Jesus and to bring their precious gifts, on horseback. Only now tourists can move and get off.

 

The Christmas carols

The Christmas carols in Umbria, are called  “laudi”, born in Umbria around the thirteenth century  and still known and appreciated as recently proved by 5,000 umbrian people who gathered to listen to the Polyphonic Choir “M° Tommaso Frescura” directed by professor Emore Paoli. These music is both religious and popular and have been handed down over the centuries almost unaltered. Hearing them, it is possible to experience the traditions of the shepherds, the images of cribs and the music of the pipers.
A pleasant experience that professor Paoli makes live again thanks to the concert which is held every year during the Christmas feast days, in the plateau of Gualdo Cattaneo.

«Take a handful of chopped walnuts, a handful of raisin, a fistful of pecorino cheese cut into small dice, a pinch of the same grated cheese, a pinch of pepper, a little salt, five or six cloves, half a glass of red wine, lard and olive oil as required, and form a whole which has to rest for about ten hours. Join a kilo and a half of bread dough, forming a mixture to divide into three parts like separate loaves. On these you can practice a deep cross cut. When the mixture is leavened, you have to cook it in the brick oven».

A snack for farmers

The Yearbook of the city of Todi, dated 1927, reports this procedure for the preparation of the “pan pepato”, a bread enriched with tasty walnuts – sometimes even raisins – that the people of these areas used to consume during the Autumn period, especially when the worked in the fields.
This type of food due to its ingredients is extremely energetic and corroborating, so that it was choosen as  as the perfect snack for those who, during the cold November days, struggled along the grassy ridges because of the olive harvest. In fact, the small size of the damaged breadpan was perfect for having  something to eat without weighing down.

 

A sublimated version

Although there are several versions, both sweet and savory, the original recipe is the the one from Todi, which benefits not only from the softness of lard, but also from the sweet-savory contrast of raisins combined with pecorino. It seems that this preparation had already been codified in a treaty of the sixteenth, but similar preparations were already widespread in the classical world. The patriarch of Jerusalem Sofrone, during the sixth century, talks about a type of cheese bread for children, not to mention the innumerable preparations spreaded in the ancient Rome and then refined over the following centuries.

Literary appetizers

It is undoubted, then, that the “pan nociato”, or “pan caciato”, is an authentic delicacy, still appreciated today, on the Umbrian tables and served as an appetizer. A delight that spreaded from Todi throughout the Umbria. So known to deserve a place of honor in the poem “November” of Guido Discepoli, inside the “Sage of poems and religious folk songs of some Umbrian towns”, edited by Oreste Grifoni – unfortunately, today, out of print.