Was the Christmas tree always there as a Tuscan Tradition…? There were different and very ancient year end traditions before this charming fairly new symbol. In particular, a “Ceppo” (stump of a tree) would be brought in the fireplace on the December solstice, and it would be the occasion for the whole family to express wishes… and today Villa le Barone formulates all best wishes to the readers of this article!
Much before the Christmas tree custom had become the standard in most of the Christian world and beyond, many European households celebrated the December solstice (longest night of the year) with a different tradition inherited from pagan pre-Christian times; the Tuscan version of this tradition, still practiced in traditional families in the early nineteen fifties, consisted in bringing into the house, close to the fireplace, the “Ceppo” (stump) of a tree, often of an oak, which would be decorated with leaves, moss and berries from the forest. Then the house master would set the “Ceppo” in the already burning fireplace sprinkling on it a few drops of wine and dropping some grain on the embers. Then the family would gather in front of the burning stump and, holding hands, would sing the classical propitiatory song: “Be happy , stump / tomorrow is the day of the bread / all grace comes into this house / women, goats, sheep shall all breed offspring / grain and flour and wine will abound (Sia felice il ceppo/ domani è il giorno del pane/ ogni grazia entri in questa casa/ le donne, le capre, le pecore figlieranno/ abbonderanno grano e farina e vino”) . Then the chidren, blindfolded, would hit the burning stump with fire irons while chanting aloud their gift wishes. The “ceppo” was kept burning for a few days to cheer the household up during these longest and coldest days of the year.
A remnant of this tradition, in some countries, is a popular Christmas rolled cake, often covered with chocolate, which is still decorated in the shape of a tree stump.
When you come to #VillaleBarone next time – even if it will probably be in a period different from the winter solstice- and pass in front of one of the very large fireplaces, just have a thought about the families chanting in front of it to ensure and bring down some prosperity on the household! … and if in the meantime you hear someone chanting “I would like a lovely trip to Chianti and Villa le Barone” we are all in favor of it and shall be happy to help make this wish become true!