Saint Lucy and the Castaldo

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Saint Lucy and the Castaldo

On the eve of December 13th, all the children in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and other, more limited areas of Northern Italy go to bed with great trepidation, waiting for the arrival of St. Lucy. Some try to stay awake until the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, as she comes to their homes to leave her gifts, but only few dare climb out of bed to peep from their bedroom door. They know only too well that they have to stay in bed, else Saint Lucy will scatter ash in their eyes to prevent them from seeing her. Not a pleasant experience.

In Veneto, St. Lucy is said to arrive on donkeyback, escorted by her faithful friend the Castaldo, who helps her bring gifts to all the children.

The celebration of St. Lucy’s day dates back to times immemorial and is particularly felt in the environs of Verona, where it never fails to bring great joy to everyone.

Our family in particular feels a great bond with this festivity, given the role played by the Castaldo. The founder of our family mill, Giancarlo Turri, was a Castaldo, as was his father before him, and both had great respect for traditions as well as a unique passion for oil production.

Tradition dictates that before going to bed, children should leave something to eat and drink for Saint Lucy, her helper and little donkey, both to thank them and allow them have a break before continuing on their long journey. Every family has its customs. Some leave a cup of tea and a few biscuits for St. Lucy, a carrot or two for her donkey and some bread and wine for the Castaldo; others prefer to set glasses of milk, some oranges and perhaps even a few slices of salami.

As regards the gifts that Saint Lucy brings, in this case too every family has its traditions. Some children will find their presents and sweets under the Christmas tree, others will wake up to see the dinner table laden with chocolates, and will have to follow the clues of a treasure hunt, to find the presents hidden around the house, and others will discover them hanging above their heads.

The magic of St. Lucy starts quite a while beforehand. At the beginning of December all the children of the region busy themselves writing letters: they must be posted early, to make sure that the Saint gets it in time. In early December the towns are full of special collection points where the children can leave their letters. But how can one be sure that they have been safely delivered into the hands of Saint Lucy? Maybe she will let them know by dropping a few sweets from the ceiling and ringing some bells.