It is often believed that Contrade in Siena exist only for the Palio race. This is not true! Contrade are active all year around. In Siena even Christmas is celebrated in Contrada. Not really on the 25th of December or the 24th evening, but each Contrada around the 20th December organize a Christmas party where even Santa arrives to bring gift to the cittini (kids in Sienese language) of the Contrada. One of the magic moments of this tradition is the decoration of the Christmas tree. Each Contrada decorates his own tree with her colors or symbols. Let’s have a look at all 17 of them:
In this tree there is a lot of yellow, main color of the Contrada
2) BRUCO (caterpillar)
As you can notice, in the bottom part of the tree there are barberi (wooden balls with the colors of Contrade) of Bruco (in green and yellow) which are used as Christmas balls.
3) CHIOCCIOLA (snail)
Here is the Chiocciola with her (easily recognizable) colors: yellow, red and blue. Can you see in the right hand side the Contrada’s fountain?
4) CIVETTA (owl)
Civetta’s tree is mainly decorated with white and red, the two main colors together with black. The tree is in the center of Castellare, heart of the Contrada.
5) DRAGO (dragon)
Drago’s tree has, at the top, a big decoration with the colors of the Contrada (antique pink, green and yellow). It is in front of the door of the Contrada’s church where new contradaioli are baptized.
6) GIRAFFA (giraffe)
The Giraffa’s tree is red and white, and it is located in front of the Church of Provenzano.
7) ISTRICE (porcupine)
This year Istrice opted for a silver tree which is not particularly connected to the Contrada’s colors (white, blue, red and black). Probably it will be full of small decorative porcupines.
8) LEOCORNO (unicorn)
The Leocorno’s tree is orange, white and blue as the colors of his Contrada.
9) LUPA (wolf)
Very minimalistic decorations for the Lupa’s Christmas tree which is just next to the Contrada’s fountains with a big wolf.
10) NICCHIO (seashell)
In the bottom part of the Nicchio’s tree there are giant barberi (wooden balls with the colors of Contrade) with the Contrada’s colors: blue, yellow and red.
11) OCA (goose)
At the top of the Oca’s tree we can see a goose with a crown which is the symbol of this Contrada.
12) ONDA (dolphin)
The Onda’s tree is light blue and white and it is just next to the Contrada’s fountain, full of dolphins.
13) PANTERA (panther)
In the Pantera’s tree the dominating colors are light blue, red and white. If you look carefully you can spot on his left side the Contrada’s fountain.
14) SELVA (rhinoceros)
Selva’s tree is decorated with orange, green and white and it is just under the Contrada’s flag and braccialetto (a typical Sienese light using for celebrations in Contrada).
15) TARTUCA (turtle)
Tartuca opted for blue and yellow for his tree which is just on the left hand side of the Contrada’s fountain where new contradaioli receive their baptism.
16) TORRE (elephant)
Brick red dominates the scene in the Torre’s Christmas tree.
17) VALDIMONTONE/MONTONE (ram)
The Montone’s tree is white, red and yellow. It is located just in front of the Basilica dei Servi, a central place for the Contrada.
Finally the cittini (kids in Sienese language) of all Contrade decorated the Christmas tree which is located in Piazza del Campo. A modern tree, this year, where instead of classical Christmas balls there are big barberi (wooden balls with the colors of Contrade) of all 17 Contrade of Siena.
To conclude: Christmas is special everywhere but in Siena a little more! Happy holidays!
by Giulia Valacchi