Grazia Deledda “The Christmas Gift” 0 Comments
I was looking for an idea to let you participate in Christmas in Sardinia and I recalled Grazia Deledda's story, "The Christmas Gift", a wonderful portrait of Sardinian’s festivity at the end of the nineteenth century. I will leave some passages in the original because I would never be able to replace Grazia Deledda words.
That day in the pastoral village of Sardinia, we live on Christmas Eve, and we wait for gifts. Even Felle and Lia, two children who grew up together in the courtyard they share, prepare for the eve, experiencing the festive atmosphere in different ways. And their kitchens are taking us back to the Christmas atmosphere of those times. While in Lia's kitchen her little sisters are sitting around the fireplace and the older sister, to keep them remain good, handed out to them some grains of raisins and sang a little song for the occasion, namely a lullaby for Baby Jesus, in Felle's kitchen instead there is a wonderful festive smell: smell of a baked honey cake, and sweets made with orange rinds and toasted almonds.
Felle's family awaits the visit of his sister's boyfriend; she is already dressed up, with the green brocade corset and the black and red skirt: around the pale face she had a flowered silk scarf with flowers; and also, her little shoes were embroidered and with a bow. The other brothers also arrive, united like a group of warriors, bringing with them the wild smell of the sheepfolds where they are coming from. They were all strong, handsome, with black eyes, black beard, the waistcoat tight as armour and, over, the mastrucca, the lambskin surcoat.
The boyfriend arrives accompanied by his grandfather. What a marvellous figure the grandfather is: an old man of over eighty years, but still straight and sturdy, dressed with cloth and velvet like a mediaeval gentleman, with woollen gaiters on the strong legs, this grandfather, who in his youth had fought for the independence of Italy, bid to the five brothers a military greeting and then seemed pass them in review. And they were all mutually pleased.
Felle's sister pours them the wine and when she pours it to her boyfriend, he secretly puts a gold coin in her hand. His Christmas gift to her. And she secretly shows the coin to her mother and brothers, in order of age, while handing them the glass of wine. The atmosphere becomes special. The grandfather, after giving a toast and wishing everyone joy and health, starts singing. He is a good extemporaneous poetry singer but so is one of Felle's brothers and then the two of them stroke up a competition of octaves, on cheerful occasional topics; and the others listened, made choir and applauded.
Outside the bells ring, announcing the mass. It's time to start preparing dinner. The mother detaches the legs of two piglets. She sticks three of them on long skewers and tells Felle to take the fourth to the neighbours so they can enjoy the feast too. The Christmas Sharing is there with all its beauty...
The children, the couple and the grandfather go to church. Wrapped up figures emerged from all sides, with lanterns in hand, arousing fantastic shadows and lights around them. They exchanged greetings, knocked at closed doors, to call everyone to mass. Inside the altar is decorated with strawberry tree branches with red fruits, myrtle and laurel. In a chapel stands the nativity scene with baby Jesus and the Wise Men descending the foothill with a golden comet illuminating the way.
Upon returning from mass, dinner is ready. The mother had spread a linen tablecloth on the floor, on a rush mat, and other mats around. In the middle of the table are the round, glossy loaves and the roast, cut into large slices, placed on wooden and clay trays. Then comes the yellow cake and sweets in the shape of hearts, birds, fruit and flowers. Felle is happy this Christmas. And so are Lia and her little sisters with the Christmas gift that Jesus gave them: their long-awaited little brother.
"It doesn't matter what you find under the tree, but who you have next to it". (Stephen Littleword)--
Written by Daniela Toti