Christmas in Italy is not that different than in America, but living here and watching it happen gives it more feeling than it usually does. It starts later in Italy than in some other European cities, I was in Madrid for Thanksgiving weekend and before I arrived they had all of the Christmas lights, trees, and markets up already! Without the marker of Thanksgiving they just start earlier I guess!
The Christmas markets are my favorite. We have a similar thing back home in Philadelphia, but it’s just in the one square and isn’t nearly as expansive. Seeing the market in Piazza Navona makes me miss the Philadelphia Christmas Village and city lights, but they’re incomparable really. Now, walking through Rome is an exciting way to find new Christmas markets that you’ve never seen before! They’re all over, in random little piazzas that you’ve never thought to look at.
Plus, the Christmas lights here are amazing. It seems like every little corner of the city has decorated itself almost overnight, with new lights going up everywhere. They range from pretty snowflakes and simple light strings to the huge ropes of rainbow lights strung down Via del Corso. The lights are all over the city, and it’s really fun to walk around trying to find all the little side streets and alleys that have their lights up already.
Even though it’s cold out doesn’t mean it’s not time for gelato still! I thought that the gelato places would close at the end of summer and the tourist season like the little ice cream shops in America do, but they’re still going strong and gelato is still as good a treat now as ever.
One of my favorite things my class at Mamiani taught me was the legend of la Befana, who is the Italian version of Santa Clause. She comes on the Epiphany to give presents to all the good girls and boys of Italy. The legend goes that the 3 wise men stopped on their way to see the baby Jesus at her house and offered to bring her with them. She declined, but later regretted it and tried to find the child on her own. She could not, but she still goes around giving presents to the children of Italy instead. It’s a really nice bit of local folk lore, plus it explains why there are so many women riding brooms around the Christmas markets! Without knowing the story, they look like they’d be more suited to be witches for Halloween!
Seeing all the Christmas cakes on sale and the bright and colorful Christmas markets makes me miss being home for the holidays. I hear it’s snowing in Philadelphia, maybe I’ll be welcomed home with a white Christmas!