Lorenzo Macchini, 16, from Rome, Italy, and my exchange student, says Christmas is one of his favorite holidays.
Since he was a child, he expected a visit from Babbo Natali (Santa Claus) on Christmas Eve night. On the eve before Christmas, his family watches a movie, attends midnight Mass, and then returns home to await the secret, late-night visit from Babbo.
“We leave an orange, glass of red wine, and biscuits (cookies), for Babbo,” he said.
They decorate either a real or fake tree every year for Christmas preparation.
On Christmas morning, after they open their gifts, they spend the day together, eating and laughing. “It’s beautiful, because everyone’s so happy,” Macchini said.
Their Christmas celebration extends past Dec. 25 to Jan. 6, when they receive a visit from Befana, an Italian witch, who leaves gifts for children in their stockings.
Befana is celebrated during the “Holiday of the Epiphany” and started long ago when Jesus was born.
Legend has it that the wise men were traveling to see the baby Jesus, when they came across Befana, with a broom. She asked them what they were doing and they told her they were going to visit the new born king and invited her to join them.
She refused the offer because she was busy, and then later regretted it when she realized who the baby really was. She wanders about Italy on Jan. 6, giving gifts to children, hoping that one of them was Jesus.
Lorenzo says she is the wife of Santa Claus, but I haven’t found anything to that effect, so maybe it’s just their beliefs.
On Christmas Day, they cook lamb and also have fettucini and panetone, and a special candy called torrone.
When I asked him what special Christmas wish he has that only Babbo could grant, he got emotional and said, “I wish I could be a kid again, like 4 years old, and be in my mother’s arms all the day.”
I think this time of year will be a little challenging for him because the holidays will make him long for his family and home in Italy.