Christmas in Mantua: Santa (Lucia) is coming to town!

In Italy Santa Claus is not the only Christmas gift-giver. In many cities of Italy the kids have their presents delivered by other legendary beings, who visit different areas of Italy in different occasions.
The Christ Child (Christkind) delivers his presents in the area of Milan, and in the northen part of Lombardy, close to the Swiss canton Ticino.
Saint Nicholas visits the area of Friuli on December 6th, and the famous Befana is awaited in many areas, mostly in the central and southern Italy, on January 6th.
In the area of Mantua (and in Brescia, Bergamo, Verona, Parma and Modena as well). the kids are awarded with gifts by Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy).
According to the tradition, in the days before her feast, Saint Lucia descends from heaven and visits the humans. Escorted by a faithful donkey, Lucia goes around every house, and observes the behavior of every child. The children have to be careful: it is forbidden to see the Saint! So Lucia warns the kids about her arrival, ringing a small bell during every visit. If children break the ban and look to the Saint, they will be punished: Lucia will throw some ash in their eyes, making them go blind.
Eventually, during the night between the 12th and 13th December, Santa Lucia pays her last yearly visit to earth, entering in all the houses. Here the Saint finds a little breakfast, prepared for her by the kids, and a bowl of hay for her donkey. In return, Lucia leaves some gifts and sweets for the nice kids. But those who have been naughty will find just ash and coal.

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