- The elaborate creche scenes on display all over the city, be that in the hall at the girls' public school or in the churches that seem to compete for the distinction of "2013 Creche Champion." Many include animatronic characters, flowing water, and light cycles that shift from dawn to dusk every few minutes. Want to build your own? Genoa has that covered too, with stores specializing in creche figurines.
- The life-size creche next to the touch-tank at the aquarium, although the petting rays upstaged even baby Jesus!
- The proudly displayed art project from school, as part of learning to recite "Caro Gesù Bambino" - a sweet poem to Jesus about sacrificing for others.
- The national holiday marking The Epiphany, which in Italy includes a visit from Le Bafana. She is a kind old lady who arrives at night by broomstick, to fill children's stockings with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal if they are bad. (As you'll see in the video, we had good children - who then used a counting rhyme to determined which candy to eat first.)
- And, most fabulous of all, making a costume of Santa Maria di Castello for a school play. Each child personified a popular tourist attraction, competing for attention. Of course, in our minds there was no doubt who won. :-)
These encounters with copious Catholicism take some getting used to - especially for this Jewish boy! It helps to have a Pope who is making Catholic cool again, even if that means tributes to Papa Franceso can be found in just about every imaginable format all over Genoa...many of which you wish had never been imagined!