Contadina's Blog

Living the contadini life among the olive groves

It’s that time of year again December 10, 2010

Filed under: Italian life — contadina @ 9:33 pm

I was surprised to read this week in the Italian press that the average spend for an Italian family this Christmas will be €1.377, down 1.2% on last year. At first I thought the decimal point must be in the wrong place, as €137.7 or even €13.77 seem more acceptable sums. As most of our Italian friends are either frugal contadini or hippies, I suspect we are just mixing in less consumerist circles.

A trip to an out of town shopping centre today proved there are a lot of Italians not unlike so many UK families, who get sucked into a buying frenzy this time of year. One impatient shopper tried repeatedly ramming his trolley into Jeremy despite the fact there was nowhere else to go owing to a lengthy queue. When Jeremy explained there was nowhere to go, the trolley-raged individual tried to take a swing at him. Three members of staff appeared from nowhere and jumped angry trolley-man, so I’m guessing it’s not the first time they’ve had to deal with seasonal psychos.

I had, perhaps through my rose-tinted specs, thought Italian’s celebrated the true meaning of Christmas, minus the consumerist trappings much loved in the UK. I should perhaps point out that I’m agnostic, but thoroughly approve of the goodwill to all men sentiment and the need to celebrate something during the depths of winter.

With that in mind, I began putting Christmas decorations up a couple of days ago, on the same day as most Italians. December, 8th (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) is a public holiday in Italy and throughout the day we could hear cannons calling the faithful to Mass.

My attempt at a crafty Christmas

Although Immaculata heralds the beginning of the festive period in Italy it should not be confused with Christ’s virgin birth, rather it refers to the fact that Mary was born without Original Sin. The Italian for stain is macchia, so Immaculata simply means unblemished or without stain.

Having wised up to the wastefulness of Christmas I’ve not bought any Christmas decorations for years, but Jeremy keeps digging up random toys and trinkets in the garden, which end up on our trusty old tree.

I’ve also taken to making a few decorations. Now I’m no Martha Stewart, but a homemade wreath, even in my amateurish hands, is so much better than those awful plastic ones you can buy. I shall also probably decorate some oranges with cloves as they look both pretty and smell divine.

I had intended to photograph some of the nativity presepe figures for sale in town as they are rather wonderful, but the cold north wind is blowing and there’s snow on the way. Aside from the usual suspects presepe often include a selection of other figures, so you can create your own town. You can get ones making pasta, eating sausages, drinking beer and pretty much every trade and activity imaginable.

Presepe in Grottaglie

Angels with jugs!

Jeremy got chatting to an old fella he met at the fountain yesterday, who invited him round for a quick coffee. Well our new friend Giuseppe’s presepe consisted of a slab of turf he’d dug up from his garden and the figures were a mixture of lego people, toy soldiers and stones. For me, that’s the true spirit of Christmas, but for those of you who prefer something a little more classical, I’ve included some rather artier ones on display in Grottaglie (a Puglian town famous for ceramics).

Until next time, stay warm everyone.

Just like Piglet 🙂

Pig in blanket


5 Responses to “It’s that time of year again”

  1. Mike Says:

    Yes, the true meaning of Christmas seems to be lost on many. Oh, but that you could see how bad it is in the U.S., trampling each other at the malls and big box stores…terrible.

    The decorations in your pictures are very is that little piggy in the blanket.:) I really like your wreath, my wife likes to make them as well. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

  2. contadina Says:

    I can probably imagine Mike. Working at a record store on Christmas Eve, many moons ago, a poor lad threw an epileptic fit near the counter. Having made sure he could not damage himself I was horrified when another customer stepped over him in an attempt to get served – shameful behaviour.

    That is little piggy enjoying her winter hibernation pose, she won’t forsake blankey now until springtime proper 🙂

    I’d love to see some of your wife’s decorations if you get a chance to post any pictures Mike.


  3. Heiko Says:

    In the 6 odd years we’ve been here we’ve observed a change in consumerism in general. It’s sad really. I’ve only just a couple of days ago learned from an American (no less) that we were talking about the immaculate conception of Mary rather than Jesus. I’ve been joking with my Italian neighbours for years whether it was a miraculously short or unusually long pregnancy and they clearly didn’t know it was Mary’s conception they were talking about

  4. contadina Says:

    Goodness Heiko. Bizarrely, our unschooled contadini neighbours understand the difference but the younger generation don’t. We’ve definitely seen an increase in outside decorations each year and Christmas trees seem to be everywhere this year. Thankfully though, gift giving hasn’t progressed beyond panettone.

  5. Kristina Says:

    It is just ridiculous here in the States. The advertising on radio and television is constant and people are completely grumpy and rude as they trudge through the stores and stand in line. The true meaning of Christmas has long been forgotten. So, so sad. My family is one of the few that gives handmade/homemade gifts to teachers, neighbors, family, and friends. When we deliver to our neighbors and friends loaves of freshly baked bread and jars of homemade jellies they are in awe that, one, someone still actually knows how to bake homemade bread and make jelly, and, two, someone is generous enough to take the time to give them a gift that’s not purchased from a store. Things are just so wrong.

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