Post #19: Happy Holidays from Italy

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…

Ok, so I’m a little late with my Christmas post. Perhaps I have been delayed because I’ve been in a food-coma following two dinners we shared with families I tutor for, a third with the Valpellice team and management, and two more plus a brunch with Kevin all in the span of a week. Or maybe I’ve finally and officially adopted the fashionably late domani-domani mentality of the Italians. Or, more likely, I just haven’t wanted the Christmas season to end. (Which would explain why I’ve just finished watching Love Actually for the fifth time this month, and second since the passage of my yearly Christmas deadline. And would also explain why I’m still wearing my new Christmas pajama set that I received from my parents as part of an annual family tradition.)

If there is one thing I’ve learned in two Holiday seasons abroad, it’s that the magic of Christmas season follows you wherever you are. The scenery may change, but cookies smell the same whether they are baking in your childhood home or a small apartment building in a country far away and Christmas classics sound just as joyful whether playing over the radio or being streamed through a computer. And Love Actually, like Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, Elf, Home Alone, and It’s a Wonderful Life, are just as likely to spread Christmas cheer whether viewed from a home theater system or played through a computer that is wired to an 15-inch television. Although nothing can replace a Christmas spent in the company of my friends and family and back home, I have to admit that the holidays in Italy have their own special charm. And I’d be hard-pressed to find a place that does Christmas quite like Italy does Christmas.

From a shopping perspective, the crowds of last minute shoppers in Italy resemble those in any mall in America come late December. So it’s not there that you’ll find any obvious discrepancy between Christmas and Natale. The real difference is outdoors… At the Christmas markets where hand-crafted seasonal goods are sold from little wooden sheds with candy-cane striped roofs and shoppers sip vin brulee, a delicious cinnamony hot wine. In Rome, where the Pope makes his annual blessing from Piazza Spagna to recognize the Immaculate Conception and thousands of people gather to share in the celebration. And upon nearly every walking street in any Italian town where unique arrangements of Christmas lights illuminate the cobblestone streets below and displays of Panettone wrapped in festive boxes adorn bakery windows.

Put simply, Italy is beautiful in December.  Even the unseasonable warmth that’s been enjoyed this winter didn’t translate into an unseasonable Christmas, despite the shortage of snow. On the contrary, it was quite pleasant to exit midnight mass to a cloudless and starry sky and to bask in the sunshine on Christmas Day during our walk around town.

Thinking back to our weekend, I can’t help but wonder where we will be spending the next Holiday season. All I know is that I will cherish the memories we’ve shared in learning the holiday customs and traditions of this beautiful Christmas country. And I will embrace the fact that, no matter where we end up, we can bring our own Christmas traditions with us like we have these past two years. That means there will be plenty of cookies in the oven, lots of snuggling up for Christmas movie viewing, a delicious brunch of cinnamon buns and Egg Strata, and several feasts in the company of friends. Oh, and, a new pair of ridiculous but comfortable PJs for me and Kev… only next year, we will be needing a pair for Baby R too.  

A stand for vin brulee and hot apple cider at the christmas market in Bolzano

A Florence shopping street

A Christmas market in Florence

The manger outside of the Duomo in Florence

A street in Florence

The beginning of a Christmas carnival in rome

Crowds gathering on the Spanish Steps to see the pope

Looking down on the Christmas tree in St. Peter's square in Rome

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