Below are some pictures of San Clemente decorated for Christmas. As I was concelebrating Midnight Mass, I couldn't take too many pictures of the Mass itself, but it was very nice. Many of the pictures below are from the praesepio (creche) from the parish. This is a story in itself. The creche is made by Patrizio, who mostly serves as our cook. He's the third generation of his family to have worked for the Irish fathers. His father was also a cook, and his father's uncle before him.
For many years now Patrizio has been putting together the creche. Now, this is not simply a matter of getting pieces up from storage and assembling them. No, Patrizio creates a new scene every year. He covers up the St. Dominic altar, and we are not allowed to see it until it is finished. The brothers tell me that it is different every year. In 2001, for example, he included a small tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack in New York.
Knowing all this, I was still not prepared for how amazingly good his creche scene would be. He truly is an artist. Unfortunately, the camera does not do it justice. He has it lit for midnight, with a red light on much of the scene, and a blue light highlighting the angel. The flash of the camera makes everything a bit too bright.
Oh, and then there are the sound effects. He has added some sound recordings of animals. He says it's in response to the press reports (which were, unfortunately, the typical errors of an anti-Catholic press) of Pope Benedict saying that there shouldn't be (or weren't) animals at the crib. So, you can hear chickens, cows, and even a rooster.
There's also running water in the background of the scene.
Of course, the neatest touches are the parts you really can't see unless you get very close up (or take pictures with a zoom lens). Patrizio has added some signs to the streets, like an ancient Italian village. In fact, he has even named one of the streets: "Largo Patrizio", translated somewhat loosely as Patrizio Street. A wonderful touch on an amazing work of art: