When I compare Christmas in the U.S. to the two Christmas' I have experienced in Italy, I've come to the conclusion that both are quite similar. Both countries have advent calendars, Nativity scenes, Christmas trees both real and plastic, holiday lights and all the trimmings. There are stockings, Christmas fairs, decorations to be bought, long lines at the department stores and people of all shape and sizes vying for the latest bargains. Granted I have not heard of Italians trampling over each other and assaulting one another for the last Tickle Me Elmo doll as was reported on the news some years back in your neighborhood suburban mall. No matter how much American bashing I hear I can't help but sigh and giggle whenever Italians tell me how materialistic Americans are. We have more in common than I ever thought before:
-Panettone (a festive rich egg bread that contains candied fruits.)
-Pandoro, another festive egg bread this time without any of the candied
fruit. Just put the whole loaf in a giant plastic bag, add the packet of powdered sugar it come with and give a good shake.)
-Gorgeous Christmas windows with animated, moving stuffed and fluffy animals.
-Street side bagpipe/musicians are common.
-Torrone (type of candy that is served in long bars and is comparable to hard meringue or nougat.
-In Rome, capitone, an eel is the common Christmas meal.
-Kids leave food out for Babbo Natale. (In some TV commercials the food seems to be panatone.)
-Families get together and play Christmas card games like, Tombola.
-Little children often recite Christmas poems they have learned at school.
-Special holiday movies are viewed such as "Vacanze di Natale" A bit like National Lampoon’s Vacation.
-Gifts are usually opened on the stroke of midnight.
-On Christmas Eve, only fish is eaten.
-Fruit cakes (often really hard, cakes
that contains candied fruits.) Usually red and green ones.
-Tall, double shot, spicy pumpkin pie cappuccino with whip on the side.
-Great hot chocolate
-Gorgeous Christmas windows with animated, moving stuffed and fluffy animals and people too.
-Sugar cookies all dressed up a decorated Martha Stewart style.
-Traditionally many families have ham, turkey, roast duckling or prime rib roast for Christmas dinner.
-Santa Clause get a few cookies and some milk.
-Parents read special holiday books to their children.
-Special holiday movies are watched like "It’s a Wonderful Life and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer."
-Gifts are opened Christmas morning, usually in pajamas.
-We have sledding and other winter sports all over the U.S., snowmen are rare in Italy.
In both countries traffic is a mess at Christmas season, there aren't any parking spaces, people are pushy, short tempered, kids are crying and tired as they are dragged from here to there and back to here again as everyone tries to finish their shopping. Cities all over Italy and the U.S. decorate their cities, squares and take special care to make their homes festive and pretty. There are discussions about whose family to visit when on Christmas Day, how much time to spend with each in-law, the similar types of "issues" American couples/families grapple with. As I spend more and more time in Italy, I come to understand that I am now living in not a totally foreign country but a parallel one.
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