Christmas is a month long celebration in Puglia beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and ending on the 6th of January with the Epiphany. Travelers who visit during this time will take note of the many cultural traditions which remain strong in Puglia, despite the homogenizing factors of globalization.
Catholicism provides the backbone for these rituals, from the countless hand-made nativity scenes found in homes and churches to enchanting live demonstrations of the nativity set in Puglia's ancient rock dwellings or among the trulli of Alberobello. The charming bellows of Puglia's wandering zampognari, or bagpipe players clad in goatskin vests and conical hats, accompany the festive lights hoisted above city streets. And the food! Cartellate (see below) abound in their sticky sweet goodness throughout the entire holiday season, while every family looks forward to a seafood feast on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day gifts are exchanged and the whole family gathers again for an abundant mid-day Christmas pranzo which can last well into the late afternoon.
On the 6th of January, the day of the Epiphany, children get a second opportunity to receive gifts. This time it is "La Befana," an old witch-like figure who swoops down on her broom and leaves gifts for good children and lumps of coal for those needing "improvement".
This year we will celebrate in California yet hold Puglia's traditions close, especially around the table. But most of all, we plan to be with family and friends. Le Sorelle wishes you a happy holiday season too. And tanti auguri for the New Year!