My sister asked me about the differences I've noticed for Christmas in Italy versus Christmas at "home." I thought I'd share a little of my answer here. BUT...it's a difficult answer due to the fact that I really don't feel like I've yet to experience "Christmas in Italy." Last year, I was in the U.S. until December 19 and when I arrived home to the house I'd lived in for approximately 12 days, I jumped right into playing tour guide to our family who visited last year. This meant trips to major tourist sites rather than specific, Christmas activities. And since we were still fairly new to Italy, I was excited to see those tourist sites then, too. Now the long time readers may recall that Nathan's aunt and uncle scored tickets to the Midnight [10:00pm] Mass at the Vatican. I'm not sure it's possible to get more experiential than that. BUT...it still felt touristy. I'm not sure that standing in the cold for hours then trying to beat out aggressive nuns for a seat to watch a mass filled with flash bulbs going off filled that need for a time of reverence. This year, we headed to Germany, where we partook of great amounts of Christmas Festivus, and while I deliberately scheduled our trip to give us two weeks back in Naples, I neglected to factor in trip recovery time. My week has been filled with home repairs, grocery shopping, online shopping for Christmas, gift wrapping, cleaning, and standing on our terrace watching lots of activity going on up the street (more on that later!). So we got Christmas in Germany, but still no Christmas in Italy.
However, I think the real reason that I haven't felt like I've experienced a "real" Christmas in Naples yet is because it is so very different. I keep thinking of the trappings I'm used to - lights everywhere, huge trees, quaint festivals, carols filling the air, and a two day decorating spree in our own home. On our street here, one family has put up outdoor lights. And those lights consist of one, six foot strand along their terrace railing. That's it. There is no driving around and admiring house after house of beautiful, lighted displays. And along with that, people here have walls around their homes, so there's very little chance to glimpse a tree through a window. Whereas many Americans position their tree in front of a window, that just doesn't seem to be the case here. Festivals in general are different in Italy, at least in the Campania region. They are a bit...smaller...than I'm used to (apple festival flashback, anyone?). I do have a few festivals/markets I plan to attend this week, so I'll be able to get a better feel for the Christmas festivals. Ditto for the carols filling the air.
And finally, our own home - we left the majority of our Christmas decorations back in the U.S. And honestly, what a relief I felt when I could put up our "tree" (a fake tree in a planter that is meant to go on a fireplace mantle or somewhere like that) and do the rest of our decorating in about four hours. While I love decorating for Christmas, and we both love our Dickens Village houses (that take about a day to set up just on their own), there is a great deal to be said for simplicity. In fact, I have found that the simplicity in our house as well as the simplicity of the greater region allows for a better focus on the spirit of Christmas - both celebrating the birth of Christ as well as a focus on quality spending time with our friends. In order for our Christmas packages back to the U.S. to arrive in time, we have to mail them by the end of November, so we avoid all the last minute scramble. Instead of masses of obligatory shopping, days spent decorating, then removing/storing those same decorations after Christmas, and the pressure of where, how, and who with to spend Christmas, we shop year round and mail early, decorate simply and quickly, and will spend Christmas with our closest friends - our only option [but a great one!]. We will not have family here this year, but we will spend a wonderful, Christmas Eve with friends and with the glories of modern technology, we will have a full view of my sister's entire living room on Christmas morning and get to see our niece of nephews enjoy Santa's offerings, thus still enjoying a child's Christmas. So, yes, Christmas in Italy is a huge difference, but not a bad one. When we return to the U.S. for good, I'll love the big, flashy, American Christmas, but I hope I can take with me some of the simplicity I've learned here.