I mentioned that we would be having a field trip related to our “Christmas in Italy” day in school, and today was the day! For the first time, we went to “Christmas on the Hill.” For those unfamiliar with St. Louis, The Hill is a predominately Italian neighborhood on the south side of the city. Both Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola Sr. grew up here–their houses were across the street from each other. It’s a charming neighborhood, filled with restaurants and bakeries, and lots of Italian pride. And at the center of it all is the Catholic parish, St. Ambrose.
We arrived just in time to get some salamites. As best as I can tell, these are basically salami, but served bratwurst-style, on a bun. Even though they weren’t hot (it was cold and *very* windy), they were delicious. Moose really liked his, although he thought it was just a hot dog.
We then got to tour St. Ambrose. It’s a beautiful old church, with high ceilings, lots of artwork, and a beautiful altar. It was also nice and warm! We didn’t get to stay long, as they were preparing for a wedding, but it was really cool to be able to look around for a bit. And yes, there’s an Italian flag flying outside.
One of the big attractions of Christmas on the Hill (aside from the Salamites), is the nativity walk. The shops have beautiful nativity scenes set up in their windows, most of them from Italy. The children were especially excited to look at these, because in school yesterday, we learned that traditionally, Italian families don’t put the Gesù bambino figure in the manger until Christmas Eve. We looked at all the Presepi we could find, but only one of them hadn’t yet included the Infant (and it just happened to by my favorite nativity scene-a Fontanini).
Another big attraction was listening to La Befana tell her story. This was done in a gelato shop, and the owners were great with all the children that attended. They had cider to drink before the story, and mini cones after. La Befana herself handed out candy, as well. It was fun to hear the story, told by La Befana “herself,” complete with Italian accent, and to have a chance to ask questions about the story. She also taught us a song about herself, in Italian–I’m sure the children won’t remember it, but it was cool that they had the chance to sing it through a few times. And I think we all remember the last line: “Viva, viva, La Befana!”
We also saw a man roasting chestnuts. Now, this isn’t really new to us–there is always chestnut roasting at Christmas Traditions in St. Charles, MO–but because there wasn’t a huge crowd, he was able to take some time to talk to the children. He explained to them that he was scoring the chestnuts with an “X” so that when they’re roasting, the moisture has a way to get out, lest they explode (or pop, as it says in the song). We also got to watch how he put them in the kettles, but lifting the lid of the kettle with a big stick through its handle, before pouring the chestnuts in. And they sure smelled good!
Of course, no trip to the hill is complete without a visit to Amighetti’s bakery. We brought home a loaf of their delicious bread, and also picked up a couple of deli sandwiches. It’s enough to make you wish you lived there, so you could always have that bread at your disposal! Overall, it was a great day, and I think it will become a new family tradition!
I leave you with some pictures of the Italian pride that is evident all over The Hill (the fire hydrants are my favorite!).