Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas in Italia

The Romans don't exactly do Christmas cheer. It's true the city is a bit more festive than normal, but uninspiringly so. Yeah, there are white lights streaming overhead on the main shopping drags, a glowing evergreen sits in Piazza Venezia (to me, there's nothing warm and festive about Piazza Venezia, but I appreciate the effort) and you'll see the odd shopwindow xmas tree display. Santa Claus (Babo Natale to bambini Italiani) is around town too. But he's not nearly as grand when you are reminded (more than once) that he is nothing more than a marketing icon invented by Coca-Cola in the 30s.

In contrast, the Londoners were stringing up lights on Regent and Oxford streets on the first of November. And, Paris was all asparkle and aglitter on my trip there a few weeks ago. Ditto, New York (where I will be later this week) will be decked out in holiday cheer. I understand it's more of a northern European/American tradition to lavish street corners with lights and fill the air with Xmas tunes, but it's not exactly an evil import. Ok, not entirely evil.

This was my state of mind last night when, in search of a little Xmas spirit, we went off to a Protestant carol service. When I heard Christmas carols I was sold. This is strange for me. I have a limited pain threshhold for Xmas carols. But you have to hear them at least once or twice in December. The Italians don't do Xmas carols either. Christmas is to be joyous, by Catholic decree, but song is not guaranteed. I didn't know this though. Had I known it, I wouldn't have found it surprising when Xtina pointed out to me that I was humming "Away in a manger" during the service.

You know this song?
, she asked accusingly.


You know Protestant songs?

I think they're traditional xmas songs,
I whispered back uncovincingly. Not necessarily Protestant songs.

Actually, I'm not sure of the origin. But I do know they weren't dreamed up by the Coca-Cola marketing department.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it's entirely accurate to say that Santa Claus is a Coke marketing idea. The legend of St. Nicholas extends back to the third century AD, and later merged with various other legend, many from Germany and northern Europe. What Coke did was to give Santa his snappy red suit.