I finally feel ready for Christmas! We have decorated our apartments, put up two Christmas trees, one in Pisa and one in Civitella, lit some really christmassy candles and had the first slice of Panettone of the season! Christmas is indeed here!
We have been better than usual with Christmas cards this year: we mailed them out at the beginning of the month, rather than on the 24th as usual… hopefully our friends and families will get our Christmas wishes before the end of the holiday season for once.
We had our share of “decorating excitement” too… my dad insists on having us decorate a real tree rather than a fake one… and this year we found some unexpected guests on our real tree: some real caterpillars, which provided a good screaming session and forced us to take down all the decorations and change the tree… So we’ve had the pleasure of decorating two trees, rather than the usual one. Now, this second one is quite lame… but at least there are no bugs on it!
Yesterday, we went to Fiori e Dintorni, a fabulous flower and gift store in the village and we spent quite a bit of money buying other decorations and some small gifts for our friends. Lorella, the owner, has some great stuff in there. We were chatting with her and I was wondering why some people (such as myself…) just go crazy when Christmas arrives and surround themselves with lights and lots of decorations. I would bring my bed into her store and live there until the end of the holidays!!!
Christmas is as global as anything else, I guess, so we all have similar “symbols”. There are however many unique traditions in the different regions of Italy, but as far as our very own Christmas in Tuscany is concerned, we celebrate with our families at lunchtime.
In my family, nothing special happens on the 24th, except that we have dinner with my parents. Since on the 25th the entire family always comes over, my mum and grandma are too busy preparing Christmas lunch, so we usually exchange gifts with them the night before.
The real celebration is on Christmas Day at lunchtime. In the past, we would all be at my parents’ place, with my uncles and aunts, my cousins and the grandparents. My mother and grandmother would prepare a massive meal for everybody, with several antipasti, two or three types of pasta dishes, broth, several types of meat dishes – mostly game meat – and then lots of desserts. But since we are all older and married now, some with kids, the celebrations have been moved to my parents’ place in the countryside, where my mum can sit 30 people or so. Last year there were 35 of us, including my cousins’ in-laws, etc!
We have started the tradition of having a potluck Christmas lunch. Everybody contributes something, but nobody is allowed to spend more than 30 euros. This allows us to continue the Christmas tradition without killing my parents both economically and physically!
I really like this family get-together as we all get along very well (a really rare thing in large families). Generally, in the afternoon, my father’s cousins and uncle and aunt join in and we go on until the last one drops (grappa helps…)!
My mother believes that it’s not Christmas if we don’t make a “presepe“, the nativity scene. When I was a kid she would make a massive one which would fill the entire space between our apartment and the neighbours’. Now that she doesn’t have time to do that anymore, she displays a small nativity scene with the main characters only. It’s a cool tradition: when I was a kid, I remember playing with the figures like with dolls.
It’s also not Christmas until poinsettias have filled up every empty corner in the house, or the traditional holiday sweets are placed on trays for everybody to enjoy. Besides the “national holiday sweets”, such as panettone, pandoro and torrone, in our area, ricciarelli, cavallucci and panforte are the real Christmas treats. They are typical of the Siena area and are always present on our tables during the holiday season.