Liguria is a land where maritime and Christian traditions are strongly connected. The villages along the Gulf of Poets (or Bay of La Spezia) celebrate the Birth of Jesus with the Underwater Christmas, a tradition that is almost half a century old.
In Portovenere, Santa Claus arrives in a boat from the sea and disembarks on the Doria Beach, where he distributes gifts for the little ones. Later, scuba divers swim with the statues of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, and spectators then join a procession towards the Church of San Lorenzo, where the Holy Mass is celebrated.
In La Spezia, a shell with the statue of Baby Jesus rises from the water at midnight in front of the Morin Promenade. The scuba divers then carry the statue on their shoulders and lead a procession to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
The Underwater Christmas at Tellaro offers a particularly evocative setting, thanks to thousands of lights positioned on the cliffs and along the streets. The traditional ritual also takes place in the fraction of San Terenzo.
Another interesting and unique Christmas sight on the Riviera di Levante (Liguria’s Eastern Riviera) is the “Dolphin’s Nativity Scene” at Riva Trigoso, near Sestri Levante. The Christmas Crèche is composed by five bronze statues, including two dolphins that are more than a meter long. This artistic creation is the work of Pietro Luigi Ravecca, a famous sculptor from La Spezia. The Nativity Scene, placed at a depth of 11,5 meters, is visible all year round either by swimming with a simple mask or from a boat.
Even though the Underwater Christmas tradition has been preserved for the past 40 years, it never stops surprising both locals and visitors!
Have you ever seen a water Nativity Scene or Christmas Chréche in Italy or anywhere else? Share below!
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