Christmas Season 07
Saturday was a holiday in Italy, ‘Immacolata Concezione’, and the holiday season started on Sunday. Throughout the past week workers were busy hanging decorations on the piazze and over the streets in the centro storico; most of the stores also have some type of holiday trimmings. The decorations here are usually rather simple but very well done, and rarely do you see the cheap cut-outs, plastic figurines and other types of decoration that seemed so common in the US. The stores in the centro storico will now be open everyday until Christmas to lure holiday shoppers.
There is not the “Black Friday” rush to buy presents as here quality seems to take precedence over quantity when it comes to gift giving. You will also not find the deluge of holiday sale fliers and sales that clogged our mail in New Mexico.
In Piazza Arringo they have erected an "Ice Park" where you can skate around in front of the Duomo. In Piazza del Popolo they have put up a carousel that the kids really enjoy. Unfortunately, both of these have speakers blaring canned music, even on Sundays when mass is being celebrated in the nearby churches.
There will be a series of events leading up to Christmas including a large Mercato Natale where several streets are closed off and lined with vendors’ booths selling a combination of hand made items and mass produced items, something for under anyone’s tree. There is a small mercato near the Duomo but this has only cheap items, mostly from China.
The well known American (and northern Europe) tradition of Christmas trees seems to becoming more popular, but in Italy they are usually live trees that are then planted after the holiday.
I saw a recent article where the use of live trees is double that of artifual trees. One of the unique traditions of Italy is the presepe, which was started by San Francesco, known as a nativity scene in the US. These are very elaborate dioramas that every community has, and in larger towns like Ascoli Piceno each church has its own. These traditionally open on Christmas Eve and will be open until ‘Epifania’ in January.