Strega Nona’s Gift
By Tomie de Paola
Godfather Drosselmeyer from The Nutcracker and Tomie de Paola’s beloved Strega Nona in Strega Nona’s Gift have a bit of the same magic in mind for a special Christmas gift in their weaving of a Christmas dream for the ones they love. Drosselmeyer’s is a dream that transports Clara to the Land of Sweets where she samples a host of sweet confections, while Strega Nona’s loving largesse extends to the entire village of Calabria in Tomie’s Christmas gift to picture book readers everywhere in his latest Christmas creation lived large in Strega Nona’s village.
Your children will enjoy listening to this detailed feasting list of festivals leading up to Christmas in which villagers of Calabria partake. Here, your young readers will see and almost smell the comfy kitchen of Strega Nona and Calabria in tandem starting in December busily turning out food a plenty! Here is a small sampling of their busy pre Christmas celebration schedule:
Dec. 6 Feast of San Nicola – Children are permitted to choose the food for this feast because, after all, this saint loves children.
Dec. 13 Feast of Santa Lucia – To honor St. Lucy, Calabrians dive into a special pudding of soft wheat berries and ricotta cheese.
December 24 La Vigilia – Christmas Eve is a time where each house will busy itself with the cooking of fish for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
And of course, with the ever present well intentioned, but bumbling Big Anthony eager to help in the prep, can disaster be far behind? On the Eve of the Epiphany, that’s January 5, legends abound of animals speaking to one another so of course special dishes are served up. Even animals are prone to gossip about meager fare dished up by their owners! Big Anthony, will you ever learn? Payback can mean a night of sleeping minus a blanket that’s been co-opted by a disgruntled sheep!
Can this tall and gangly food sampler resist Strega Nona’s tempting selections meant for barnyard recipients?
Will this choice affect his reception of the dream gift of Strega Nona? What do you think?
All I know is that I will be participating in the December 31 traditions of the Feast of San Silvestro as relayed in this wonderful compilation of story and savories.
I’ll be dining on lentils and rice pudding as suggested in Strega Nona’s Gift, in order to facilitate prosperity in the New Year and I just may welcome the turning of the last calendar page of 2011 resplendent in red underwear. Didn’t you know it brings good luck? Now you do, so get out those red long johns and nightgowns!
Trust me, Strega Nona and Tomie know! His delightful Christmas tour of the gastronomic treasure of food, festival and fun in Calabria is a book that children will love.
But may I please have the slice of cake containing the fava bean on the Feast of the Epiphany? Big Anthony got it this year and became the king of the Feast carried in a special chair, and wearing a crown. No fair! I have dibs on queen next year.
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