Monday, December 22, 2014

It's Christmas People! - E' Natale Gente!

The Christmas carols in the streets of London and outside Covent Garden station, just after work.

Then the violinists  jumping up and down.

The aromas of mulled wine, hot chocolate and minced pies reaching me from the back,

before going to hunt for a wacky Christmas gift at the Apple Market. 

My yearly concert at Saint Martin in the Fields, alone.

Followed by hot chocolate with friends at the Cafe in the Crypt.

The beautifully lit Trafalgar Square.

One more pint. Two actually! Come on, it's Christmas!

And the cappuccino at Bar Italia or the hot chocolate at my secret place in the street behind. 

Franco, the Sicilian 70 year old Italian chef, in a white suit and a white hat, dancing with women outside the bar, always. I wonder if he is still there, dancing.

We have to go to work tomorrow. All right, all right. It's ok if you are a bit late at work tomorrow.  It's Christmas girl! You're going to be all right. 
Are we all right? 

Nightbus ready to take us home. Drunk, really drunk. 

Morning after, the perfect excuse to be late at work: bus stuck for 15 minutes. Santa's fault, sorry.

It is only Wednesday. "We've got to go down the pub!", says our boss at lunchtime. "It's Christmas everybody!" 

Office empty. When we finally leave the pub, outside is dark and the Christmas lights remind me that it is time to go home (and not to go back to the office). 

But the stores are still open for a while and I have still time to finish my Christmas shopping.

More drinking was needed to swim the day after in the river in the park next to my flat (Kensington Gardens), with few degrees Celsius above zero. But it's Christmas people, what's wrong with that?

Then the yearly tradition of going ice skating in my red jumper at Summer House.

How about one more Christmas gift?

Did I say one? Those candles please. Right, that black leather bag too, thanks. Finding gifts for people there, by the river Thames, was a delight and I really had to make a serious effort to stop myself from emptying my bank account.

With my friend, at another Christmas market. In Winchester, my favorite. No more Christmas gifts. Sure.

Finally, last day at work and then Christmas dinner with the work mates, another yearly English tradition.

Like every other year, turkey, parsnips, bruxelles sprouts, Christmas crackers and loads loads of drinks to then make all of us sing Christmas songs to strangers in the tube (British subway) on the way home. Loved it. 

Back to my shared little apartment: an empty corridor and an empty room. No Christmas tree, no nativity. Perhaps just a small decoration put up by one of my flatmates on the door of his room with a Chinese writing on it.  In my empty flat, no sign of Christmas. There was silence and nobody around. Just sadness. 

So two or three days before Christmas I was going to Italy for a quite, intimate, spiritual, relaxing break with my parents. But my parents' apartment was no longer my house and the seriousness of the Christmas celebrations there was at times hard to take in coming from happy silly London.

The good part was that back at home in my dear Turin I knew I would be taken care and loved by my mom, the best restaurant chef I knew, until January 2nd or 3rd. After that date I would have had to make my way back to London, because the Brits were already going back to work, despite the fact that Ms Befana, the witch who keep all Italians on holiday until January 6th, had not arrived yet in Italy. Luckily, not much was going on at work in London for the first and second week of January so getting paid for getting used to the idea that Christmas was over was not bad at all.

After many years like these, here I am, in Boston, with a much more meaningful Christmas inside the house, with moments like this one for example.

I feel blessed that my Christmas is now in my own house, and with my own family. I have a beautiful family to spend Christmas with, a lovely tree lit and I can look at the nativity, which reminds me of my childhood and see the excitement of my boy, Tronk, when I tell him that baby Jesus is about to come and that Santa will bring more presents under the tree. Back in Italy my parents were putting mostly presents for adults under the nativity. And I knew that I had to wait until Christmas eve for the other colorful shiny packets to magically appear there, next to the others. I remember trying to stay awake as much as possible. I was hoping to hear Santa (or baby Jesus) enter my house in person to bring my presents. I would eventually fall asleep. Next morning, there was my mom reminding me that I had to get ready for mess, then lunch at one of our relative's house. Christmas gifts? Still under the nativity, until late in the afternoon. Not exactly what I want for Tronk's Christmas.

In the last few days, I allowed Tronk to see a few of his gifts under the tree to let his imagination go wild. I enjoyed so much looking at him each time he went to sneak a peek at the gifts under the tree and tried to figure out which were his. It didn't take him long to figure it out. He said all excited: "mamma, c'e' scritto Will sui miei regali!" (mom, my gifts have Will written on them!) - He couldn't stop starring at them. 

We'll go to the Church on Christmas eve (4 pm Boston time, which is 10 pm Italian time, close enough to midnight). This way Tronk will have a blast when he will wake up on Christmas day! 

Outside the house, my Christmas has changed dramatically. While I was looking at a Virgin Marie taken out from a nativity and placed next to a reindeer and a Mickey Mouse in someone's yard, I was thinking that Christmas here in the US is very different. It is fun, around and inside people's houses, whatever they celebrate. Yet, every year, I cannot help desperately searching for those important traditions I used to share with friends and strangers both in Italy and in England.

I'll end this posting with just a few lights. Merry Christmas Everyone!

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