Studying (in) Italy: An Italian Christmas for an American student
- WTI Magazine #86 Dec 17, 2016
After spending four months in Italy, there is a bittersweet feeling as my semester comes to an end. With Christmas season being halfway through its course I noticed how different the holiday seasons compare between the US and Italy.
The Christmas decorations in Rome remind me of how beautiful this time of year is. Each main street and piazza is lined with Christmas lights and decorations just like they would be in any major US city. Something that will never be matched is the experience of walking through the historic areas of Rome and seeing all of the streets lit up with Christmas decorations. For me I will never take for granted passing St. Peters Square every day and seeing the beautiful nativity scene and the massive lit up Christmas tree that takes the center stage. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain but can only experience to fully appreciate its beauty.
The biggest difference about Christmas in Italy compared to the US is the terminology and mindset used. Everywhere in the streets of Italy you see “Buon Natale” which translates to Merry Christmas in Italian. However, in the US, almost every store replaces Merry Christmas with happy holidays in order to be neutral and respect the beliefs of everyone inside the US. But walking the streets of Italy you will find pictures of Jesus and the Pope lined up outside stores and buildings publicly. Christmas in the US just like around the world is a major holiday but instead, the US focuses less on the religious aspect and more on the exchanging of gifts and coming together as a family. In Italy, especially being so close to the Vatican, the entire Christmas scene revolves around the religious aspect of Jesus birth.
Christmas shopping in Italy can be very similar to the shopping in the US. All of the stores promote Christmas sales and are full of people getting their gifts for their loved ones. Everyone in the US knows how hectic black Friday shopping can be and how much you can save by shopping on that day. But in Italy the black Friday fever is not as hectic as compared to the United States. The whole black Friday theory is something that has recently been introduced to the European scene in general but has not had the same reaction as inside the United States. There are no mobs of people crashing through entrances and fighting over limited goods. Instead it’s a very peaceful day that has shops a little more crowded than usually with small discounts offered inside the shops.
Another thing that differs from the US is the celebration of Holy Days inside Italy. The biggest being the celebration of the Epiphany. Inside the US, the Epiphany is not recognized as a Holy Day of obligation. But in Italy, my classes inside the Vatican were canceled due to the holiday and I even saw a firework display in the distance over Rome later that night. I was amazed to see the difference in culture when it came to Holy Days and experience it firsthand.
I will never regret my decision to study abroad here in Italy. This entire semester has been something that has changed my life for the better. I recommended anyone reading to consider finding time to visit this beautiful country. With that being said I’d like to say “Buon Natale” and Happy Holidays!