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Christmas in America Compared to Christmas in Italy, Two Pleasurable Holiday Destinations!
There are similarities and differences between Christmas in America and Christmas in Italy. The holiday of Christmas originated with the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, a day around the shortest day of the year. Therefore, the main reason we celebrate the holiday is to celebrate Christ’s birthday. Another reason to celebrate Christmas includes the changing of the seasons and the days that will become short before they become long again. The shortest day, which does not necessarily fall on Christmas, is the winter solstice which also happens to be a pagan agricultural festival to mark the changing seasons. Put simply, we celebrate Christmas around the world as an inspiration to imitate the ethical behaviors of Christ who unconditionally loved all men and women, regardless of their beliefs or origins.
Americans and Italians offer countless special holiday games and activities for their children at home and at school. Santa Claus, who is “Babbo native” in Italy, brings surprises to children on Christmas Day. Almost all children receive gifts on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. Children open their packages or empty their stockings while family members s amused to see them rejoicing in surprises.Children’s gifts ranging from candies to soft toys to other more sophisticated toys.
The exchange of gifts between family members and friends is the business aspect of the holiday that has been embraced by merchants in large and small businesses. Spending money in stores stimulates the economy during good years of prosperity. One thing that makes America different is that Americans receive more merchant catalogs in the mail every year to show what items will be available before and after the holidays. Not only do Americans like to find deals on gifts, but they also have great Boxing Day sales. Americans tend to be bargain hunters, and now Italians have even started their own “Black Friday” bargain sales the day after American Thanksgiving. Reports indicate that Italians started most of their Christmas offerings this year (2015) with decor in their stores right after Macy’s in New York held its annual Thanksiving Day Parade! In fact, I witnessed this in Novara, Italy!
People in Italy and the United States generally enjoy shopping for friends and family. There are many similarities between the gifts they give, as Americans and Italians love toys, electronics, clothes, and food for friends and family. Too often, some people forget that the meaning behind the season is to express the simplicity of love. Instead, some people expect big gifts or try to see who gives the best and most expensive gift of all. Christmas gets frustrating for jobless people who don’t have money to buy presents, but some struggling people have been smart enough to bake cookies, do arts and crafts, or provide a free service to their loved ones instead of giving the traditional gifts. There is no doubt that Americans and Italians sometimes forget the spirit of the season, which Christ would have recommended to help the poor and needy during the holidays. Regardless of its origin, there is always the risk of forgetting the true meaning of Christmas as we try to outdo our neighbors, friends and families. The essence of the season is not to “look good” or “bella figura price.”
Italians and Americans like to sit down and eat lots of food with their family members. Some families are going through tough financial times with too many bills, high mortgages to pay, and no jobs. Luckily for most, there are merry festive meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when it is also a time for feasting, perhaps even longer feasting hours in the southern region of Italy. than anywhere else. Many of the dishes served are similar and some are different. Most Americans and Italians have a main course of meat, a few side dishes, salads, and a few sweets at the end. The food served differs in the regions of Italy, with southern Italians tending to eat more seafood while their northern counterparts eat more meat. Americans generally enjoy turkey, ham and roast beef. That being said, eating habits on both sides of the ocean are changing, so more and more people are becoming vegetarians and serving dishes such as tofu and vegetarian lasagna. Although most Americans literally go crazy for spaghetti and pizza, these two dishes are not usually eaten on Christmas Day and are reserved before and after the holidays.
Italians and Americans often like to help the poor at Christmas. This can be done by giving money to the church and elsewhere. In American schools, students collect food to give to the poor. In part, this is wisely done to teach young children to have compassion for others. Italians give their donations to help the poor at the supermarket instead of at school, and there is the famous Community of Santo Egidio which helps people in Italy at Christmas. Fortunately, the American branch of the Salvation Army rings the bell every year in front of grocery stores to help anyone in need get a warm coat to wear, shoes, clothes and food. Countless Americans in churches regularly donate food and there are even homeless shelters. In some parts of Italy, Santa Claus tells stories and gives gifts to any child who shows up at the reading event.
Most people would agree that the real meaning of Christmas is to be different from Scrooge and more like Saint Francis. People should help everyone who needs it, regardless of where they come from. This message is underlined by Pope Francis and other leaders with strong moral values. Catholics try to imitate the kindness of saints who were not revered but rather observed for their great deeds while Protestants and Catholics follow the teachings of Christ and the various books of the Bible. People of other religions, even spiritual non-believers, feel the need to help others during Christmas time, because the main point of such a widespread holiday is to love other humans and respect the world. in which we live, as did Christ. Few people would object to the idea that it is appropriate to support humanity and nature.
Italians are lucky enough to be able to eat many variations of panettone, a large cake that often contains fruit and vanilla. This same cake is now sold in American stores, but the versions found in Italy tend to be more delicious. Such a cake can be easily baked at home in America with a good recipe that uses baking soda and/or baking powder. Alternatively, Americans eat loads of fruitcakes which are also delicious if you buy the right brand, one of those delicious brands being Collins Street Bakery in Texas!
Italians extend the national holiday to Boxing Day, Santo Stefano, a public holiday since 1947. Although Americans don’t usually pay much attention to the Santo Stefano holiday, most of them are still on holiday on The day after Christmas. , unless they work in retail and offer sales to holidaymakers. On the day of Santo Stefano, Italians enjoy another special meal as well as a good Passaggiata or walk around town with the family. This is the perfect time for long family discussions or to visit the maternal or paternal side of the family. Italians are so lucky to visit markets, see tiny parades and see nativity scenes like those found in the little nativity museums known in Italian as preview.
Both cultures display lights in their homes and around town. For Americans, it often becomes a festival of lights competition. Perhaps some of America’s most famous luminaries are in Rockefeller Center in New York. Italian lighting tends to be done by the city council or the town one lives in. There is more lighting in big cities like Rome or Florence where the streets are full of tourists. Granted, almost everyone has trees in their home as well as some lighting around the trees. Americans flaunt more real candles than Italians, and one of the great American pastimes has been to go out and cut down real evergreen trees (which were bred for this purpose) every year. The felling of the tree was done with a parent or grandparent in the tradition of the pioneers. In Italy, trees are rarer, so it is usually fake trees that are reused from year to year. Venice Murano glass makes excellent Italian ornaments or year-round home decor in the form of lamps and small sculptures.
Italians are lucky that this celebration continues until the “Befana” comes on Epiphany Day in January. Between the night of January 5 to 6, the Befana carries sweets to children in Italy. The name “Befana” is actually another way of saying Epifany but in a folkloric and profane sense of the word. The representations of the Befana very similar to those of the American kitchen witches which are very popular in the United States. In some small towns, an elderly woman actually dresses up as the Befana to amuse the children. Legend has it that she helped shepherds find the Child Jesus when he was born. This caption doesn’t agree with biblical teachings, but it’s a nice secular touch, much like Santa Claus.
Americans are usually back to school on Epiphany Day, but American kids would probably enjoy such a celebration with candy and stockings too! Many American children have at least the possibility of studying the Befana in their elementary grades as they enthusiastically try to learn more about Italy. In fact, I have observed that many Italian-Americans in the Atlanta area continue to celebrate Befana in one way or another with their grandparents who immigrated to the United States.
In Italy and America, the Christmas holidays are mainly about praising God and his son Jesus, the spirit of the season being one of kindness and that spirit of people sharing precious moments with their loved ones. The result is that the citizens of Italy and America try to be kind to each other in anticipation of a greater heavenly kingdom while making this world a much better place. We all share the tradition of contemplating these artistic nativity scenes with the Child Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds in them! Angels, bells, wreaths and candles remain the shared symbols of the Christmas season with Christians and others acknowledging the beauty of a little child who grew up to be a prime example of how we should live. with love for our fellow human beings around the world. May some fine Italian and American traditions stimulate peace and goodwill on earth! These shared festivities are for everyone on earth who wants to visit two fascinating countries as Christmas vacation destinations!
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