[Ed. note– The following piece, written by Signal Tribune intern Andrea Ciccolini, was only lightly edited, in an effort to preserve his “voice” and writing style, as he makes the transition into learning English.]
The world is not finished like the Maya predicted. So, finally, Christmas arrived. It has crossed our lives, and it will be back next year. For someone, it is a relief. For someone else, it is a sad thought. For me? It is difficult to understand my feelings about Christmas this year.
I have spent the days before Christmas in Las Vegas and Christmas Day with the family of a Californian friend. Everything was so far from my precedent Christmas that I could only feel and think about how large the distance was from a Christmas in Rome.
Usually, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are like a car race with the pit stops but, instead of changing the wheels and putting in gas, everybody exchanges presents and puts a lot of food in the stomach. In Italy, like in the U.S., and maybe in most parts of western countries, the holiday planning sounds like:
“Christmas Eve with my parents. Maybe there will also be my uncle with my cousins and their families. Have we some presents for them if they come? Okay. Don’t drink too much on Christmas Eve. In the morning, we have to wake up early. We have to give the presents to our little champions and start preparing everything for the lunch in our home. Who will pick up your parents? I hope one of your three sisters. Will they come here with the entire group of husbands and kids? Are you sure? Nobody is abroad? Okay. Are you really sure? Okay. Okay. Okay. Check if we have presents for everybody. I hope they don’t forget to bring the dessert. I cannot cook everything every time. At what time do we stay at your friends house on the evening? Yes, I know, they are also my friends. At what time should we arrive there? Okay. I hope your whole family will go to the theater after lunch. So we can rest some minute before going to your… to our friends. And what about my Christmas present? I see. You don’t know nothing because it is Santa Claus’s business.”
This sounds like the schedule. But the difference between Italy and the U.S. is that, here, it is possible to skip lunch and choose a big breakfast on Christmas-day morning instead. In Italy, it is impossible to do this. To not take the Christmas lunch is a sacrilege. In my country, the day after Christmas is also a national holiday, and it is the occasion to meet other relatives and friends, exchange the last presents and eat again.
About eating, it is evident there are differences between Roman and Californian traditional Christmas food. Here, it is typical to see fruit cake, See’s Candies, eggnog and food similar to Thanksgiving on the table. In my city, there are fish and fried vegetables on “Eve,” because we don’t eat meat the day before Christmas. On the day after, it is traditional to eat meat broth with tortellini, a typically Italian homemade pasta made of small pillow-like pieces of pasta filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. We also eat traditional desserts; the most famous is called “panettone.”
With the stomach full of food, in California, every family decides to get some amusement like a movie theater or a bowling game. In Italy there is only one traditional amusement: gambling.
Gambling includes Bingo or in different card games played only in Christmas time with a traditional Italian deck. Every family has his favorite card game and sometimes there are little changes in the rules from one family to another. But every time in every Italian family this is a tough moment.
If you lost a lot of money gambling with your relatives, the only thing to do is to hope in good presents. And in this moment, the worst thing for you is to have been “regifted.” It means that you must take a recycled present.
Here the habit of regifting is much more common than in Italy, where, if we don’t know what to give to someone, a basket with food and drinks is always a good solution. Anyways, it’s not Christmas without presents, and there aren’t Christmas presents without Santa Claus.
The difference between Italian and American Santa Claus is that the “Stars and Stripes Santa Claus” is industrialized; he is the boss of a team of high specialized elf workers. On the contrary, the “Fettuccine Santa Claus” is only a solitary worker without elves who makes everything by hand.
He can be Californian or Italian, but, for sure, the gifts always appear on the bottom of the Christmas tree, and we can see in the excited eyes of the children who believe in the existence of Santa Claus the magical power of the tradition. And it is not difficult to regret the moment when we believed that an old man riding a reindeer-flying sled brought to us the gift we asked in the letter.
Now, for adults, gifts are just objects that are more or less desired but only objects. The real gift of Christmas, if you are lucky, is the occasion to spend time with the people you love. And, if you spend Christmas time in an Italian family, there might also be the occasion to gamble and take money to the people you love. It can be very funny.
At the end of these days, my feeling was that Christmas in U.S. is a little bit less gorgeous than in Italy. Maybe because Americans arrive at Christmas tired after Halloween and Thanksgiving. But, if you are tired, I have bad news for you.
Christmas is gone, and it means only one thing: the Happy New Year party is coming.