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  • The Italian Ceppo

    by Anthony Parente

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    Italy is an exciting place during the Christmas season. Italian Christmas customs are as varied as the Italian people. One of these varying customs is called the "Ceppo." For some Italians the Ceppo refers to a Yule log. The log was burned in the fireplace during the Christmas season and it had many significant meanings. Some of these included the purification of the fire, the image of the sun and the symbolic burning away of the accumulated evils of the old year. Sometimes the children would be blindfolded and given a long stick to strike the burning log. This would cause sparks to fly up the chimney. Once the children removed the blindfolds they would find a small gift. The ashes from the log where kept so they could be sprinkled on the fields during the spring as a sign of good luck for the new crops.

    Not all Italians associate the Ceppo with a log burning in the fireplace. For those Italians the Ceppo refers to a pyramid shaped structure made of wood. This tiered tree was believed to have started in the Tuscan region of Italy. The tiered tree would contain three to five shelves and the frame would be decorated with fringe or fancy paper. On the bottom shelf the family would display their treasured "Presepio" (crèche or Nativity scene). The remaining shelves would contain greenery, fruit, nuts and presents. The presepio would represent the gift of God, the fruit and nuts would represent the gifts of the Earth and the presents would represent the gifts of man. The top of the Ceppo would be adorned by an Angel, star or a pineapple, which represents hospitality. Some families would attach candles on the outside of each shelf and light them. This is why the Ceppo is often referred to as the "Tree of Light."

    There are many varying customs throughout Italy during the Christmas season. Please take the time to share these customs by sending me an email message.

    Buon Natale!


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