The Christmas holidays in Italy have a special flavor and I have realized it only recently.
For some reason, I have always thought that this was a very special period for many people around the world but Christmas and the Christmas holidays in Italy are a bit different than in some other places.
As I said, I have realized this only recently. I was chatting with a student of mine, we were talking about Christmas and she said: “I am happy when Christmas day comes but I am also sad because it means that the holiday period is over”. She told me that her family takes the tree down right after Christmas and that everything goes back to normal almost immediately.
Things are way different, here in Italy. There is no feeling of sadness or melancholy associated with Christmas because that day is just the beginning of a long special period: Christmas is not the end of the holidays yet it is their very beginning.
As you may know very well, the Christmas season in Italy begins on December 8th. It is the day of the Immacolata Concezione (the Immaculate Conception), which is the first holiday in this period. The tradition says that you should be putting the tree up and decorating the house on that day, although Christmas decorations are usually up much earlier nowadays.
December 8th marks the beginning of the holiday season but this has mainly to do with Christmas shopping and getting ready for the Christmas celebrations. Most of the people go to work until Christmas Eve while December 23rd is the last day of school for kids. Except for all the frenzy that leads to Christmas, nothing special happens before the 24th.
The celebrations reach their peak on Christmas Day, obviously, but things do not go back to normal after that. Christmas marks the beginning of a blurred period of time when you don’t know what day it is and you basically trudge from your bed to the sofa then to the table to eat another slice of panettone and then back to the sofa to watch another Christmas movie.
I believe that this is something that happens in many other countries too, probably until the New Year, but we Italians are really lucky and can extend this relaxing time until January 6th, the day of the Epiphany or il giorno della Befana, as it is colloquially called. So that’s probably our day of sadness and melancholy, one of the saddest days in the Italian calendar.
Kids go back to school right after January 6th and it’s when everybody finally goes back to their daily life. In fact, even if you do not take days off and keep going to work as usual, the atmosphere between Christmas and la Befana is just different. Christmas decorations are still up, there is still a lot of panettone to be eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner and you know that there is still the Befana to break the work routine. After the Befana, that’s when real doom happens.
I normally do not take many days off during this period but I felt particularly tired this year, so I went all out and decided to have the full Italian Christmas holidays off. It probably never happened since I left high school and I can honestly say it was a blast.
Even if I couldn’t do anything special because of Covid, I really felt as if I was a kid home from the holidays and it was a unique experience. I have actually experienced this all-days-blurring-into-one-with-a-sugar-overdose kind of feeling you get only during the Italian Christmas holidays and I loved it.
And what about you? How long do the Christmas holidays last in your country, if you celebrate Christmas?
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