Garibaldi-Meucci Museum Celebrates Italian Christmas Traditions Today
Today, December 15, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum will host a day of holiday celebration. Beginning with Christmas Breakfast Buffet at 11:30 a.m., the day will include games and treats for the whole family. The museum will also unveil its newly enhanced presepio (nativity scene).
The tradition of the presepio began in 326 AD when Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of the Nativity, but it was St. Francis of Assisi, in 1223 AD, who made them popular with the common people. Through the centuries since, these nativity scenes have become closely associated with the city of Naples. Neapolitan artisans have turned the presepio into an art form, and have carried on their craft from father to son in a guild that continues to this day to protect their traditions. Nativity scenes have become not only a religious symbol for believers, but a universal way of representing a big family who reunites and enjoys the little things in life-the perfect way to celebrate Christmas.
In 2011, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum began to assemble its presepio, and this year Father Adam Forno, National/State Chaplain of OSIA, has donated his personal-and sizeable-collection to the museuM. Antonio Pignalosa, a Neapolitan artisan with more than 40 years' experience in presepe construction, assisted in merging our sets of figures, houses and landscape elements with the new ones from Father Forno. During the afternoon he will share a video of his best works over the years.
The traditional American nativity scene consists of about ten characters-Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the three wise men, a shepherd or two, and a few animals. A true Italian presepio contains a large assortment of biblical characters, angels, animals and people from everyday life, combining the sacred with the profane, the spiritual with daily life. During a trip to Italy in the 1980s Father Forno became fascinated by presepe: "I was inspired by the thought that Jesus was not born in isolation, but rather, as depicted by a presepio, in the midst of the daily human lives and activities of Jews in Palestine."
With a tax refund check Father Forno began his own presepio with a series of Fontinini figurines, to which he added pieces from a local religious goods store. He constructed his presepio with a hand-quilted cloth that was a gift from the Holy Rosary Sisters of the Holy Land. His presepio grew, and resided in the parish house of St. John the Evangelist where Father Forno served for 18 years. This year, when he retired, Father Forno wanted to find a place where his presepio would be cherished and shared. "I am ecstatic that my presepio will bring joy to hundreds of visitors to the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum over the holy season of Christmas for years to come."
Other festivities of the day will include the most traditional Italian family game played at Christmas time-Tombola. Similar to Bingo, Tombola is a great way to teach small children about numbers-and it's fun for the whole family. Tombola will be played in English and Italian, so you will also learn some Italian numbers and words while having a great time. There will be plenty of prizes, and plenty of winners.
We even offer an unusual last-minute Christmas present perfect for your loved ones. For a truly unique gift, you can purchase a commemorative brick, to be engraved with the names of family or friends you want to honor and celebrate. The brick will be incorporated into the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum Recognition Walkway in front of the museum, to be seen by visitors for generations to come, while helping support the Italian historic landmark of Staten Island and its many programs-it is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Admission is $15, $10 for members, reservations are recommended. For information please call 718-442-1608. The new, expanded presepio will be on display through January 7.
The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum was the home of Antonio Meucci, the true inventor of the telephone, and a refuge to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the legendary hero who championed the unification of Italy. For over 50 years the museum has fulfilled its mission to preserve the legacies of these great men, and to promote understanding of the Italian-American heritage through cultural, artistic and educational programs and classes. The historic Italian landmark on Staten Island, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is owned by the Sons of Italy Foundation and administered by the NYSOSIA?GMM?Board of Commissioners.
Regular museum hours are 1 p.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 per person, members and children under 10 are free. Call ahead for groups of 10 or more. The first floor of the museum is wheelchair accessible, but the restroom is on the second floor. At press time, program funding has been provided through the Order Sons of Italy in America; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Richmond County Savings Foundation; Northfield Bank Foundation; Coccia Foundation; JP Morgan Chase Regrant in partnership with the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI); The Staten Island Foundation; The Lois and Richard Nicotra Foundation and by grants allocated by New York City Council members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo.
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