Why “Christmas” should begin with an F

The best time of the year is here again! This makes me feel like wearing red clothes, listening to Last Christmas and eating all day long (because I never eat all day long. Nope). And lots of people, at least in Italy, feel the same way.

Not an exclusively religious recurrence anymore, Christmas season in Italy begins on December the 8th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when everyone stays home decking out the Christmas tree and presepe – a Nativity scene recreated with small statues or real people acting as Mary, Joseph, Jesus Christ, the Three Wise Men, shepherds and more –, and ends on January the 6th, the Epiphany day, when Befana – a female version of Santa Claus who rides a broomstick – visits every house and gives candies to good kids and coal to bad ones. During these weeks four major festivals take place – Christmas Eve (this is not a national holiday, though), Christmas, New Year and Epiphany – , and it is the most beautiful, happy and cozy time of the year: every city is decorated with lights and Christmas trees, TV channels compete to broadcast the most popular Christmas movies (and Home Alone always wins), children are taught Christmas songs and poems, relatives from far-away towns gather together and people reevaluate the joy of spending time with beloved ones.

Tradition is a keyword in italian Christmas, and, alongside shared customs such as the Christmas tree, presepe, Christmas calendar with its chocolates and panettone or pandoro (the eternal rivalry that divides families forever), every family has its owns – for example, on December the 24th my mum, my sister and I always go to the cinema or looking for Santa Claus. There are also some differences between cities and regions: in northern Italy, where alpini are more important and popular than in the South, on Christmas Eve they walk city streets singing traditional songs such as Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle and asking for money to give to charity, while in Naples presepe tradition is particularly rooted.

But why should “Christmas” begin with an F?

Because italian style Christmas is all about Family and Food. It feels like Christmas when it doesn’t snow, when you miss The Grinch, when you don’t get your Christmas calendar and even when no one brings pandoro instead of panettone, but it isn’t really Christmas if beloved ones are not with you and if Christmas lunch don’t lasts at least five hours.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Pictures: Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

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