Neroni watches the TV intently everyday, especially the BBC. He, by the way, is a tri-lingual gatto, since he understands Cat, Italian, and English languages, although he speaks mostly in Cat. He listened and observed carefully all during the past two weeks as the BBC discussed Thanksgiving in the United States. Deciding to find out first hand, or paw, should we say,about what this event is really about, he contacted his dear cousin, or cugino, in the US, Sylvan the Cat. Neroni found the traditions of the holiday very tasty sounding, and he wished that some year he might be able to share in such a delicious day. On the other hand, Sylvan asked what might be a similar event or holiday in Italy. Neroni told him in very clear Cat about the Olive Harvest, of which he has first paw knowledge since his umani family takes him and the children to their cousin's estate out in the Tuscan countryside every year to participate in this work and festival.
This special event also comes some time in November. First comes the harvest itself where nets are positioned below the trees which are hit with long poles of bamboo or metal to make the olives fall. If they do not fall, the gatherers must climb ladders to pick them one by one and place the precious fruit into baskets whose contents are added to the number of olives in the nets. This can last all day, and by evening the harvest takes on its festival atmosphere with a lucious dinner, perhaps in the olive grove itself, always accompanied by a rich local wine, toasting to the Earth, enjoying its gifts, and completed with laughter and songs. At the end of the harvest, the gatherers take their bounty to the press, where the first pressing makes what is known as extra vergine oil, so light, so delicious that it might be tasted right there on some Italian bread such as bruchetta, and a picnic begins. Then, carried by the press workers, the bottles of oil arrive in a basket, ready to take home to the sacred place in the cucina, or kitchen, to sit next to the spritely aceto, or vinegar, at the ready to bless the salads, breads, pastas, any ingredient that needs a bit of olive and grape for smoothing out and spicing up the day's meal, or pasto, a reason for grateful praise to the Creator.
In some Tuscan villages, this harvest might include a festival to commerate the life of a saint, such as St. Celement, whose special day is November 23, and who served as the fourth pope. In fact, cousins from Rome have reported to Neroni that ancient ancestors observed Christian worshipers in the second century who gathered quietly and secretly at an apartment to prevent being found and executed. Over this original building now sits the basilica which was built in the sixth century. The Christians dedicated this lovely structure to St. Clemente, and today they celebrate his special day with a parade with the church crucifix carried by priests and altar boys, his statue adorned with flowers, and food booths and singing, praying, candle lighting, and joy in the blessed harvest of both the olives and the souls who have been remembered earlier in the month at All Saints Day. These cousins from all over Italy love these festivals as the excitement to watch and the tid bits of food that fall to the ground allow for much fun, as well as all the children who are there to pet and play with them, the gatti of the region. No turkey and dressing, but Thanksgiving none the less. Then home to warmth, that special blanket, the rubs from loving owners, and at last a deep, autumnal sleep during the quiet night of November.