There is Christmas spirit tucked at the end of a short driveway on Federal Hill.
Our Italian teacher, Maria Mansella, told us we should forego our traditional last class in December and meet at Eugenio Milano’s home. It was a great suggestion.
Italy is famous for its nativity scenes. Presepe means crib or crèche, and the one in Mr. Milano’s yard celebrated that tradition. It was delightful.
Because of the complexity and the size of his nativity scene and village, Eugenio started to assemble it in early November, just as he has done for over thirty years. “It is tradition. My family loves it. Even though they have moved away and have families of their own, they always come back.”
The colored lights over the way (“Just like in Italy, “said Gene) and the Italian flag gives one a clue to the joy of the season that lay ahead. The reward at driveway’s end was one of the finest presipi I have seen; assembled and partially crafted by Eugenio.
The scene didn’t just consist of Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men. He created a whole village around the manger itself, with homes, tiny roads and churches at different levels, as if one were walking up the hills of the town. He even had made a small home that resembled his in Molise, Italy, from whence he came so many years ago. The lights sparkled and complemented the stars above on this crisp winter evening.
Eugenio took great pride in creating this elaborate scene with lighting, backdrops and multiple figures. The finished Presepe was complete with twinkling Christmas lights, hay, grass and carpeting to resemble the manger scene and its surroundings. It was beautiful.
In the 13th century in a cave in the small town of Greccio, Italy, St. Francis was the first to build and popularize a manger scene and celebrate Mass.
In this small yard tucked among the many neighboring homes on Federal Hill, Eugenio had created his masterpiece, much like St. Francis’ idea so many centuries ago. With love, he shared it with us.
Thank you, Eugenio. Thank you for continuing this wonderful slice of our Italian culture.