It’s Christmas time and Il Cedro Bed and Breakfast is decked and donned and full of holiday cheer.
It is delightful – just the way my home was back in Texas.
But things are different here.
As you might expect – or might not if you are as naive as me – Italy does things a little differently at Christmastime.
Today I present to you Part One of a four-part series on Celebrating Christmas in Italy*.
Since Italians refuse to actively celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday which propels Americans into the Christmas holiday season, they normally don’t decorate their homes until after the Immacolata on December 8. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you about that next week!)
Christmas trees have gained popularity over the years, but the nativity scene, or presepe, is the traditional decoration of choice. There is no shortage of shops selling them, either. They range in price from €10 to hundreds of euros, depending on the size and brand. Many of them are collectibles that can be passed through the generations.
Last week I told my husband that I wanted to start our nativity scene collection.
“We should buy one or two pieces this year, then add to it every year,” I told him.
“I am thinking it will be around €50 per piece. Where is the best place to get them?”
Confused look. Then, “Well, why don’t we go ahead and buy the whole thing? We can get a whole set for way less than €50 at the store by our house.”
“The store by our house?” I asked him … shocked. “You mean the casalinga store?” (Casalinga stores are similar to luxury dollar stores back in the states.)
“Uhm … uhm …” he was getting nervous. “I guess you wanted to get a better one, huh?”
Smart man, that Italian!
In addition to starting the holiday season on the Immacolata and decorating with presepi, here are a few other notable differences between Christmas celebrations in Italy and America.
– There are very few outside decorations in Italy.
– Santa doesn’t stuff stockings – La Befana (the Christmas witch) brings them on the Epiphany (Jan 6).
– The local churches have a tour of their nativity scenes, with each one trying to outdo the next.
– Forget about pre-Christmas sales, they don’t exist. In fact, many Italians tell me prices rise before the holiday season.
If you are an expat, what are some of the differences between celebrating the holiday season in your new country and in your home country? If you aren’t an expat, what are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
Be sure to come back tomorrow for Celebrating Christmas in Italy, Part II. We’re talking food here, people!
* Please note that all of the customs and traditions I am referring to may be typical of southern Italy, specifically Calabria. I’m no expert on the other regions, but I hope those of you who are will chip in with your two centesimi!