And we finally arrive to the east border, in Friuli Venezia Giulia! Where Christmas traditions and stories find their origin long time ago.
Friuli Venezia Giulia is Italy’s most North-Eastern region. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. While to the south it faces the Adriatic Sea. The major transport routes between the east and west of southern Europe pass through this region. And that’s why Friuli Venezia Giulia’s history is a mix of cultures and traditions.
Friuli Venezia Giulia’s Christmas traditions come from cultural mosaic. From December to January, from the sea to the mountains, a Central European mixture of ancient legends and folklore live on the streets and the most picturesque corners.
The Christmas spirit is more intense in the small towns “guarded” by the Eastern Alps. The rural sacredness and simplicity reign in a frame of snow and mountains.
On Christmas Eve, if a girl looks in the mirror with her hair down at midnight, she will see the image of the predestined groom.
Once in Friuli in fact the Christmas traditions were linked to magical beliefs. And still today you can feel the atmosphere.
A very common practice in the region is the setting on fire of the Nadalin (also called “zòc”) on the night of Christmas Eve. It has pagan origins but in Christian times has taken on a symbolic meaning. The Nadalin is a big log generally beech, oak or mulberry tree that is lit in the fireplace. According to the tradition, the Nadalin had to remain lighted on until the New Year, but if you could keep it burning until Epiphany, this would bring good fortune to the whole house. Once the festivity ended the coals of “zòc” were carefully preserved and used to light the fire when threatened by bad weather.
Together with the splinters of the Yule log, blessed olive tree leaves and some juniper branches were also burned deeming this practice a powerful talisman against witchcrafts and, generally, against bad luck.