24# The Neapolitan nativity scene: a combination of history, art and tradition

Every year during the Christmas holidays there are two categories of people, those who prefer the nativity scene and those who prefer the Christmas tree. However, in Neapolitan culture this conflict almost does not exist. Although Christmas trees are decorated even in the beautiful Italian city, the nativity scene is the real star of the season. The reasons are endless and have historical, cultural and artistic roots. The idea of representing the nativity of Christ during the Christmas period comes from St. Francis of Assisi, who created the first nativity…

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10# Struffoli: Neapolitan Christmas Tradition

Of the many pastries and dishes that Italy has gifted to the world, the Neapolitan delicacy known as struffoli are the quintessential festive dessert on Neapolitan tables and for Italian-American families alike. They originated in Napoli, the capital of the region of Campania, and dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks who once ruled the port city. And then the Romans have adapted the recipe into their own version, stuffing the dough balls with candied fruits and chopped almonds. It seems the name struffoli comes from the Greek…

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Fontanelle Cemetery, Naples, and the cult of “pezzentelle” souls.

The Fontanelle cemetery is a place of worship located in in a cave in the tuff hillside in the Materdei section of the city of Naples, Italy. Inside there are about 40,000 human remains that derive both from the plague epidemics (1656) in Naples, and from the cholera epidemic (1839). Only the plague, according to some estimates, made at least 250,000 victims only in the capital of Campania region. In fact the plague reduced the population from 400,000 to 150,000. According to tradition, being buried away from the consecrated soil…

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‘A Bella Mbriana: a love legend along the narrow streets of Naples

The history of Naples is full of legends and myths, which are lost between truth and fantasy, between streets and alleys, between lights and shadows. The love legend of ‘A Bella Mbriana is one of these and, along with the Munaciello, one of the most popular. Unlike the Munaciello she is the good spirit of the house, depicted many times as a beautiful woman well dressed in white. A myth, a legend, which tends to disappear among the new generation, yet very rooted in popular belief. Even the popular Neapolitan…

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Legends and origins of “O’ Munaciello”, the Neapolitan sprite.

A Neapolitan proverb reads: “O munaciello: a chi arricchisce e a chi appezzentisce“, which means something like “The munaciello or enriches or sends into poverty“. The munaciello, literally “little monk” in Neapolitan dialect, is a legendary sprite of Neapolitan folklore: a spirit of both beneficial and spiteful nature, it is usually represented as a deformed boy or a person of short stature, dressed in a monk’s habit and silver buckles on shoes. The Munaciello manifests itself to the inhabitants of the house with gestures that express sympathy or dislike depending…

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Naples, Italy: in November the first Black Cat Museum opens.

Who does not remember “Tournée Du Chat Noir”, one of the most famous nineteenth century posters that advertised the Parisian coffee house of the same name? Even today the poster created by the Swiss-born artist Theophile Steiner runs in the form of posters in the homes of some people and is depict on many souvenirs like magnets or postcards, bags, and not only in French Capital. The success of the poster and its passage through the centuries is largely due to the magnetism of the feline, which in its darker…

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The Neapolitan Cult of the Dead at the ossuary of Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco.

In 1274 Purgatory was formally accepted as Catholic doctrine and defined by the Church as the place of purification through which souls pass on their way to paradise. Some decades later, the Council of Florence added that the suffrages of the faithful still living were efficacious in bringing souls in purgatory relief from such punishment, and in 1476 Pope Sixtus IV confirmed that indulgences might be earned by the living for souls in purgatory, thus shortening individual souls’ time there. At the beginning of 1600 a group of Neapolitan noblemen…

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