by Gianluca Isaia
Quanno nascette Ninnoby Gianluca Isaia
Year after year, despite everything, Christmas keeps exerting that universal magic that everyone knows, especially in Napoli, the land of the world’s most beautiful and festive nativity scenes. Here, believe me, Christmas is still a holiday that is extraordinarily felt and enjoyed. In fact, if you come to the city in the weeks preceding the holidays at year's end and you go to the privileged area of the crèche workshops and shops – San Biagio del Librai and San Gregorio Armeno – you’ll find yourself faced by an impenetrable wall of crowds blending with tourists from all over Italy and the world, as well as Neapolitans and inhabitants from the inland areas of the Campania region, attracted by that world composed of small statues of tender beauty garbed in delicate silk. It is a sort of dream – like that of Benino the shepherd boy who, according to legend, experienced the entire nativity scene during a prophetic dream – where there are often amusing modern day intrusions thanks to statues portraying famous athletes, actors, singers, and politicians of our time.
Christmas in Napoli is a ritualistic occasion with exciting and traditional moments that sweep over entire extended families like a hurricane and is especially expressed through the lavish food. However, it is still full of truth and endless spiritual and symbolic values that are found in few places in the world. Perhaps the only thing I wouldn’t know how to precisely tie to the ancient heritage of “Christmas made in Napoli” is the choice of Christmas gift: therefore, that is left to the imagination, desire and possibilities of each person. On the other hand, to be honest, ISAIA certainly has no lack of gift ideas. Anyway, since I don't know what you like and cannot give everyone who follows me a personal Christmas gift, I thought I could turn to what is probably the strongest and most natural language of my city: music. “Quanno nascette Ninno” is a Neapolitan Christmas carol based on the words of Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, from which the famous “Tu scendi dalle stelle” derives.
The beginning immediately envelops you in an atmosphere of light and wonder, with words that evoke fairytale images and bring to mind that feeling of awe and marvel of childhood. “Quanno nascette Ninno a Betlemme, era notte e pareva miezo juorno….” Sheer poetry. Also called “Pastorale”, the song was composed by Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori in his own Neapolitan language in Deliceto, a town in the province of Foggia in Puglia in December 1754. Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori was the first person to use the Neapolitan language for a religious hymn. The original title was “For the birth of Jesus”, and it was published with this name in 1816.
It has undergone countless modifications and editing over the centuries and has had numerous interpretations, even recent, by famous singers, including the Italian pop star Mina. The descendants of the saint, particularly Princess Tresicce, continue to honor the work in some way. The aristocrat often opens her palazzo in the heart of the popular Sanità district for musical and cultural events tied to the life of that neighborhood that is experiencing a renaissance. I think this is a good sign and a warm wish for renewal and happiness for all. So sing “Quanno nascette Ninno” in front of the Christmas tree or Nativity Scene with your loved ones. You’ll see that a piece of the legend of Napoli will instantly become reality. Better yet, do so wearing an ISAIA garment that possesses the warmth, joie de vivre and inimitable style of Napoli. My fondest best wishes to all. Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Marvelous New Year!