Welcome to Part Three of the Christmas in Italy trio that I’m doing this month! Once again, there is a video attached, a familiar song, but sung in Italian. If anyone wants to locate the other blogs in this set, just back-track a little, they're all here now! So, on to the holiday in Italia...
Picture Rome at Christmas, and what it would mean to spend the holiday there… the crowds at St. Peter's for Midnight Mass, the chance to see the countless churches with their presepi (Nativity scenes), and perhaps some of the world-famous monuments glimmering under holiday lights. Then there is the festive Christmas market in Piazza Navona.
A walk through Campo dei Fiori toward the piazza brings you into a colourful holiday wonderland. It is, I am told, an incredible sight, with stands and stalls covered in thousands of lights, and offering Christmas candy, small games, and toys such as stuffed reindeer-being sold by Santas! The scene brings back that almost child-like sense of wonder that we all used to feel around the holidays.
Rarely is Christmas cold in the sense that North Americans understand cold, but occasionally there is a cool Winter. The Italian Press tends to refer to such events as Natale Polare or “Polar Christmas”.
For Italians, Christmas represents family… and food. (Shocked, aren’t you? J) And, while the shops are full of wonderful gifts, there is far less emphasis on the commercial aspect of Christmas than in other places. The streets and shops of Rome are crowded on Christmas Eve–but the shoppers' arms aren't full of shopping bags with the latest clothes or toys, they are loaded down with the foods of the season–fresh fish as well as sweets like panettone, pandoro and torrone.
Also, the decorations don't go up very early… usually only a week or so before Christmas because they stay up until the Epiphany on January 6th.
One of the joys of shopping in Italy is the great attention the shopkeepers pay to each purchase and especially at Christmas. Whether you choose a gift that costs a small fortune or something as simple as a pastry to enjoy yourself, your purchase is given loving attention and treated with care. There is a magic that is purely Italian in every breath you take while in Italy, but it is never more in evidence than during this Holy holiday.
If you have the pleasure of spending the Holiday in Rome, rest assured you will not need to struggle with tradition – a visit to many restaurants will ensure that you will be treated to a purely Italian holiday meal. The owner will often tell tourists to close the menus and will then serve the meal that every visitor has dreamed about... usually ending it with a slice from a giant panettone, the traditional cake that originated in Milan and is served throughout the holidays; it's a bit like fruit cake, only much better!
Special thanks to the following sites and people for their help in preparing my Christmas Posts: News From Italy, The Italian Notebook, Dream of Italy, and my wonderful friend Stefano Testatonda.