As the British saying goes ’tis the season to be jolly, and indeed it is very much the same in Italy. For me this December month has seen not only an infinite number of celebrations (Italians love to celebrate every momentous event in an individual’s life) but also alternative Christmas celebrations too.
I feel that now-a-days, Christmas (at least in the UK) has become very commercialised and whilst it is still a ‘magical’ season, a bit of the enchantment is lost along with the mass of glittery boxes and tinsel wraps. In Southern Italy, Christmas seems to be as much a religious festival as a capitalist one. In every (Catholic) religious household you can be sure to find a presepe– a nativity scene in the living room. Up until now, I always thought that a nativity scene was limited to a dedicated corner in church, and even then the extravagance of Italian household nativity scenes seems to greatly surpass them.
As in the UK, christmas is not just one day but it is a season. In Italy, Christmas is characterised by both its religious roots, with many important dates and holidays leading up to the special days (the’Immaculate Conception Day’ on the 8th of December is a national holiday in Italy) as well as its particular traditions. During the December month the florists fill up with the festive plant, ‘stella di natale’, and the supermarkets have endless discounts on Panettone– the Italian equivalent to Christmas pudding. I’m pretty sure that over the last month I have eaten more Panettone than I have eaten in my entire lifespan and have tasted more variations at that. Just as well that the near by town Castelbuono is famous for their Fiasconaro panettone. If you’re going to have a dessert during the Christmas season, you can be sure that it’s going to be a Panettone or a Pandora!
This year I have been fortunate to have a dabble of both the Italian and British UK christmas spirit. Whilst Italian Christmas is unmistakably Italian and British Christmas is assertive British, it is clear that for both cultures, Christmas is a time of hearty food, good company and lots of sugar-rushes.
Buon natale a tutti!