A Presepe Vivente or Italian version of the Nativity play
Presepi or Cribs have played an important part in the life of Bagni di Lucca for over 200 years. Nativity scene figures and small statues are still a very important part of the local economy. If you are interested in the history of these cribs you might like to read my post on presepe http://unprosecchino.blogspot.it/2010/12/nativity-scenes-or-presepi.html. The Italian version of a nativity play is a Presepe Vivente, which translates as a living crib. A whole village transforms into a crib, which in Italy doesn’t limit itself to the stable scene but shows the whole village going about their daily activities.
The medieval villages make for the perfect stage set and the houses open their door and volunteers demonstrate traditional skills from farming to crafts. In Medieval times each of these villages was a micro sufficient community. Winter, however in modern times can be lonely in some of the higher villages when tourists and second homers leave and these winter festivals bring the hills to life and give the locals from all the scattered villagers a chance to catch up. These presepi are not limited to religious significance but are more about community and indeed like every village event food is ever present.
Adults chat and warm up with mulled wine while the children enjoy a history lesson without being
aware that they are part of a living museum. How lucky are they that these crafts are still known about and indeed in some area are being brought back.
The fact that the odd plastic bowl and mobile phone is evident somehow makes these events more endearing. Agriculture in the area has seen the return of the sowing of ancient seed types and it has been noticed that those with wheat intolerance can eat this wheat without ill effects!!