insights on art, culture, lifestyle, spirituality, travel, music, society and much much more from a jet-setter currently on "furlough"…

Archive for the tag “Rome”

Presepe Galore!

Back to blogging about Christmas again…

One thing I really looked forward to during my trip to Italy was seeing all the beautiful and original presepe (or nativity scenes) that pop up around the country during this sacred time of year. We know that Saint Francis of Assisi helped popularize the tradition of the presepe in the 13th Century. The reenactment (also known as a live nativity) and the depiction of the Christmas Story (both live and in figurines) spread in popularity thereafter.

During the Christmas season in Italy, presepes are to the number of Starbucks in New York City: they can be found on virtually every corner of the city, towns and countryside… both indoors and outdoors. Presepes pop up everywhere. The purpose of these nativity scenes (both big and small) is to recount the story of Christ’s birth; yet, at the same time, it also celebrates the artistry of this ancient and beloved craft. Each region uses its own special materials and styles to retell the mystery of the Christmas story. Many times, you will find Bethlehem in the local context, or even staged in a medieval castle!

The magic of Christmas is definitely celebrated in these ornate, beautiful works of art. Cheers to Italy for preserving this tradition and allowing all of us, regardless of race, religion and creed, to enjoy the presepe during this special time of year.


Holiday Lights (Less is More)

My favorite part about the holidays is definitely the winter lights showcase. In fact, I am someone that keeps holiday lights and Christmas decorations up until well into February; simply because they make me happy and it’s hard to survive winter without some LIGHT. Winter (or l’inverno, in Italiano) can be a hard month for many people, so what better way to kick off those assiduous {winter} blues than to hang some festive lights around town to induce festive joy and tranquility?

Those of us who live in the United States know that we Americans tend to go overboard with the lights (and everything else!) during the holiday season: parks decked out in colorful holiday lights, parades with inflatable Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman figures, giant gingerbread houses and ornate wreaths decorating famous mansions (just to name a few). These lights can be a spectacle for locals and tourists alike, but can also create an uncomfortable sense of visual overload. Many times, displays can be kitschy — check out this house I have driven by many times in Burtonsville, MD — and down right expensive. Is there a way out?

I spent 7 of the 9 days of my trip in Rome, the capital of Catholicism and home of the best display of holiday lights (according to most of my Italian friends). During those days, I saw my fair share of Italian holiday lights and displays while walking around the center of town (Piazza di Popolo, Trastevere, Piazza di Spagna) In contrast to the gaudy, flashing red, gold and green lights that we are familiar with, the Romans chose a simpler way of decorating their streets: still equally festive, soothing and oh so beautiful.

Instead of a kaleidoscope of tacky Christmas colors, the Romans fared well with their simple blue, yellow and white lights. These lights were draped on the branches of trees, dangling from the top of churches and also strung in between the buildings (cobble stone beneath). Popular designs included snowflakes, vertical strings, the occasional pine tree (or maybe it’s a cypress tree in this case) and, of course, stars. The Italians LOVE their stars (a reoccurring symbol that appears everywhere), as well as song titles such as Quante stelle in cielo con la luna. Some lights dazzled while others remained still…

All in all, the lights brightened up each pedestrian street with never-ending holiday spirit. The holidays can get so stressful sometimes that surely seeing these simple, bright and beautiful lights will bring people peace instead of insanity. Indeed, less is more and the way it should be.

For more information about Christmas traditions in Italy, check out Rick Steves’ Christmas in Europe: Italy series here.

Holiday Reflections Commence…

Welcome to the last month of 2011! It’s amazing how much time has passed since my last urge to writeand how much time has passed… period! Now that the holidays are upon us again, I have decided to reflect on the last Christmas break, which I spent in Rome and Orvieto, Italy. I am grateful to have spent that time in Italy last year, and experiencing a whole new way of celebrating the “most wonderful time of the year”. As the year draws to a close, I have decided to slow down and reflect on my time in Italy last year. To be honest, I’ve been running around like a headless chicken, working 2 jobs and getting my photography business well established this year that I’ve barely have time to think. This month, I plan on doing just that. It’s never too late, right?

Certain months of the year that were previously spent in {Italia} always makes me nostalgic for the Motherland, a place that still fuses my passion for life even after 7 years. I can now add December to the list, after spending my first (of many) Christmases in Italia last year. At times, memories come back to me: the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas in the Old World. I spend a lot of time teaching elementary and middle school kids how to write, yet rarely get to do so myself. In addition, I have also never written a series of travel journal entries, let alone shared these preciously guarded thoughts with the world.

In honor of the 12 Days of Christmas, I am giving myself a goal to write (12) Natale in Italia 2010 entries between now and the end of the year. If time wasn’t an issue, I’d blog every day. To keep things to the point, I’ll simply share my favorites.

So… here I go, diving into the unknown, ready to wet my feet and write again. I hope to brush up my rusty writing skills and share some of my favorite memories, stories and lessons of Natale in Italia 2010 with you all. Think of it as a memoir, a guidebook, musings on lessons learned and even a road map for life. I hope you will join me on this holiday adventure and welcome comments and suggestions for this revived blog! Buone Feste!!

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