Since the house is on fire, let us warm ourselves! ~Italian Proverb
A Christmas Eve bonfire? We were intrigued. As we ventured to the town of Nemoli, population 1,500, we wondered what we would find in the town square. We were rendered speechless. December 24th has been storied for generations by an enormous bonfire in the main piazza.
The fire is lit on Christmas Eve, and it burns until the Epiphany, on January 6th. Originally it was a Pagan ritual to mark the light filled longer days to come. When Christian customs swept the land, the tradition remained and the fire became a symbol of Jesus as the light of the world.
Today the fire is a community hearth. It is a place to gather and stay warm before midnight mass. It is the first time I have ever been in a town where everyone is the same Nationality, Nemolisi, and everyone is the same faith, Roman Catholic. After the priest blessed the fire, the party started. Prosecco and fried dough were handed out as the din from bagpipes filled the bracing night air.
Fireworks exploded in doorways, as families were heralding families. We felt as if we were in a dream, a part of something tangible and yet floating somewhere outside the realm of reality. We are so excited about the New Year and all we have to learn while soaking in this reverie.