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Friday, January 8, 2016

Epiphany Sorrento Style

Little did we know that when we booked our trip for the first week of January that Ephiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, the 6th of January, would end up being a highlight of our trip. Traditionally, this is the day set aside to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, who in reality was 2 years old by then, according to Matthew's account.
The Swedes enjoyed one more day off before returning to work on this day but there are many cultures that celebrate this day with special things.
Sorrento celebrates with a marching band, a worship service with communion and a beautiful procession through the streets with children dressed as peasants and Mary and Joseph continuing their journey and the magi marching ahead of the Christ child who is being carried through the streets in a most spectacular fashion. 
We didn't really even realize what a special day this would be until the marching band came down the street where our hotel was located. We had read that a concert would be happening on the square at noon so we checked that out too. Very fine musicians playing a variety of brass music. The whole town had gathered and the mood was incredibly festive and delightful.
We had heard that there would other things happening around town, mainly for children, but we didn't discover these. 
I managed a midday run while Doug rested, his cold still giving him fits. It was pretty tough due to cobblestones streets and a steady uphill incline, but I was rewarded with this view once I reached the top of the road. 
After an earlier thank usual dinner, we took our usual stroll around town and decided to pop in on the church where the Eucharist service was taking place. We couldn't get in because it was so packed. We also noticed that the square was filling up with people so we asked a local policewoman what was happening. She explained about the procession that would begin at 8.00. I was still on the hunt for mint chocolate chip gelato so we went in search of that and found some of the very best I've ever had. Big chunks of chocolate were laced throughout the minty creaminess. Perfect.
Then it was time to join the throngs of locals who had gathered in the square to wait for the procession. We heard the band playing silent night and then saw the parade come into view.
It was so special to see how important this celebration was to the people. The procession was indeed beauitful and festive and we were enthralled by it all, so happy to have stumbled onto such an awesome local custom.
Suddenly, there were loud booms and a fireworks show laws beginning with pinwheels spinning on the top of the church.
Shortly thereafter, a huge and very fine display of fireworks began.
Since we had missed the New Year's fireworks, this more than made up for it. 
It was great watching the children's faces with each new explosion. Even the Magi and Mary and Joseph had paused to take it all in. 
Once the fireworks ended, everyone processed back into the church. We followed.
A priest shared some words, a well-known (to them) hymn was sung with gusto, and the spirit of the gathering was so lovely. Even this little doggy thought it was worthwhile. 
I was reminded that in many places, once the New Year comes, Christmas is done and over. Many people don't really realize that the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and end on Epiphany and that Epiphany itself is a significant event in the nativity. I loved being a part of the wonderful end of the season celebration, a day clearly every bit as important as Christmas itself. That joy was reflected on the faces participating and in the spirit of the town. (I have some cool video from the evening. I'll post it another time).