If in Bari they can boast of having the predecessor of Father Christmas (his name was Saint Nicholas, of Turkish origin but very devout in Calabria), even here in Piedmont, among the hills of the Langhe and the peaks of Monte Rosa, there is no shortage of truly intriguing folk tales.
Do you know who Gelindo is? He is a Piedmontese shepherd, the protagonist of popular Christmas plays in the Piedmontese language. He is a shepherd by profession, gruff in character but with a good soul. In fact, to respond to the emperor’s census, he leaves his home in Monferrato. He arrives in Bethlehem, where he is destined to meet Joseph and Mary, help them find a place to stay and be the first to visit the baby Jesus. The origin of the “Tale of Gelindo the shepherd” is to be found in the Monferrato area in the 17th century, and following its spread, this character also became part of Piedmontese idioms and proverbs, such as the saying “Gelindo ritorna” (Gelindo returns), referring to someone who tries to do something but every time retraces his steps without reaching a conclusion, because when Gelindo had to leave, he always came back because he forgot something at home or for other reasons. The Piedmontese also used to say A ven Gelindo to indicate the arrival of Christmas.
Don’t be shocked if the people of Monferrato tell you to leave the window of your house ajar, there must be a reason! Another custom is for the Holy Family to rest in their home on the night of Christmas mass.
In various parts of Piedmont, a log was burned in the fireplace before midnight mass to welcome and warm the baby Jesus. If the flame was still alive after the mass, it was a good omen for the future year. This theme of predictions about the future is present in many traditions of Piedmontese folklore: in the Vercelli area, people used to cut up an apple for good luck, while in the Turin area, egg white was poured into a container. In Cuneo, on the other hand, the oldest man in the family had to light a candle on Christmas Day: if the flame bent, it meant that the harvest would be plentiful.
Christmas in Piedmontese communities was traditionally prepared starting with the novena, which was celebrated in the parishes on the basis of an ancient repertoire of sacred songs and lauds. There were Christmas songs such as the ‘nouvets’, which can be found in the provinces of Turin and Cuneo.
Let’s not forget that we Italians like to celebrate Christmas with our legs under the table and our bellies full. We Piedmontese are no different and like to delight our palates with typical foods.
Dessert is a must: almond, chocolate and gluten-free Panettone. And for those who don’t like candied fruit, just suggest the Pandoro, there’s the Marica (if you’ve never heard of it, all the more reason to try it) or the Lemon Paradise Panettone.
Father Christmas brings presents, we bring you lots of good food, directly to your home, not under the fireplace but on your table.
With all this food, too many pots and pans to wash? Never mind, the dishwasher takes care of it, and you have the task (and what a task) of eating good food in company!