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“I Gibbaduonni”: Christmas night in Gratteri

“I Gibbaduonni”: Christmas night in Gratteri

In the past, on such a great holiday like Christmas, singing and novenas to the Christ Child could not be missed in Gratteri. According to Mrs. Antonina Lazzara, they took place in the Matrice Vecchia at 5 am, back in the day. On those days, there was such a devotion that women flocked from every neighborhood, even though it was snowing.

Moreover – since the electric lighting did not yet exist at the time, and the streets were illuminated for a few hours by the flashes of oil lamps – they could reach the church with lanterns or a basket or a tin with an oil candle inside, i lumaricchi.

Older women used to wear a black cape or a maxi scarf, which covered from the head up to the hips, carrying a wooden bench under it to be used to sit in church. However, from a 1740 Rilievo, we know that even in the past, Christmas novenas were held in Gratteri, in the churches of San Leonardo (now destroyed) and San Giacomo.

Rosa Sausa’s stories show the simple devotion of the women living in Gratteri. The latter said that when she was young, she used to take part in novenas, by waking up before dawn, when the sacristan was saying the Lord’s Prayer from the Vecchia Matrice bell tower, at 4 am. She said:

“E quattru sunava ‘u Patri Nuostru; iò mittieva ‘u pani ô liettu e mi nn’javu ê nuvieni du Bamminnieddu” (Rosa Sausa).

During Christmas novenas, people in Gratteri were singing the following verse of the Holy Rosary to the Child Christ:

“Sia da tutti di cuntinu
adoratu Diu Bamminu
Adorato in tutte l’ore
Il nostro caro Redentore”.

At the end of each verse, the word “Gloria” was added:

“Gloria al Padre e al Figliolo, allo Spirito Superno
quello che fu sempre in eternu
Gloria ancora sempri sarà”.

An old Rosary to the Child Christ was also mentioned by Mrs. Giovanna Di Maria:

“E decimilia voti e lodamu Gesù Bammineddu
E taliatilu quantu è beddu ch’è amurusu lu Bammineddu”

At the end of each post, the following was also added:

“E taliatilu comu sta comu un Re di maistà
E taliatilu com’è misu comu un Re di Paradisu”.

The pitch of “Viaggiu Dulurusu” was really impressive, for journey that Mary and Joseph had to face from Nazareth to the cave of Bethlehem. In addition, this song was sung on the nine respective days of Christmas novenas). The text collected in Gratteri, dating back to 1740-1760 and attributed to Mr. Binidittu Annuleru from Monreale, was also attested in Alimena, another town in the Madonie mountains.

The song ‘u raccuntu’ is entirely produced in a dialect version:

A Maria cu porta affettu, di Giuseppi cui fa cuntu, si avi cori ‘ntra lu pettu, senta senta stu raccuntu: lu viaggiu dulurusu di Maria cu lu so spusu…”.

Christmas novenas ended with some singings to the Christ Child, accompanied by organ and friscalettu (a Sicilian flute). Some traditional songs as “A la notti di Natali”, mentioned by Mrs. Lazzara, and “Lu Ciaramiddaru” mentioned by Mrs. Mariantonina Di Maio, were sung by children with folded hands before the Christ Child image.

In the past, Christmas night – called “i Gibbaduonni” in Gratteri – was alive with Matrice Vecchia bells, which began to rang on several occasions, from the Hail Mary to midnight church services. So, sacristans and those who took turns to play in the Matrice bell-tower, were offered chestnuts, wine and traditional “turtigliuna”, given the cold night’s frost. Today, we only have some old ladies’ drooping memories of that time.

La notti di Natali

(sung at the end of the novenas)

A la notti di Natali
cci nasciu lu Bammineddu
‘ntra na stadda cu l’armali
‘mmenzu un voi e un asineddu.
Di lu celu cci scinneru
l’ancileddi cantaturi
e di intornu cci curreru
li tri Magi e li pasturi.
San Ciuseppi lu ‘nfasciava
E sò Matri cci cantava:
Bammineddu, Bammineddu
Tu si duci, tu si beddu!
Fai la vò miu duci amuri…
Ninna Nanna Ninna oh
dormi Gesuzzu e fai la vò.
Ntra la notti chi nascisti
oh chi friddu chi sentisti!
Fai la vò miu duci amuri…
Ninna Nanna Ninna oh
dormi Gesuzzu e fai la vò.
Nta lu pettu miu t’agguccia,
pi lu friddu ccà t’ammuccia.
Tiritùppiti tri ciaramiddara
dintra dda grutta allura agghiunceru
tri pasturali allura sunaru
e prestu prestu l’addurmisceru!

Lu Ciaramiddaru

Cu l’antica ciaramedda
Amurusa t’accumpagna
Vinni a fari la nuvena
A lu pasturi di montagna
Ciaramiddaru Ciaramiddaru
Fai ‘na sunata sutta st’artaru
Ca lu Signuri quannu nasciu
Tutti li cosi binidiciu
E falla bedda ‘sta sunatedda
La ciaramedda sona accussì:

Tulì, tulì, tulì, tulì
Tulì, tulì, tulì, tulì

Sta sunata quantu è duci
Duna paci all’infilici
Se la senti lu Bamminu
Cu lu sapi ‘nsocchi dici
Se la senti lu Signuri
Veni a vasa a ‘stu pasturi
Sona ancora sona ancora
Ca l’armuzza si fa bona
Sona ancora sona ancora
Ca la nivi c’è dda fora
E falla bedda sta sunatedda
La ciaramedda sona accussì:

Tulì, tulì, tulì, tulì
Tulì, tulì, tulì, tulì…
(Mariantonina Di Maio)

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