Monday, December 27, 2004

Finding Christmas in Sicily

There are some interesting differences in the way Christmas is celebrated in Sicily than in the rest of Europe or the USA. I found it very difficult to purchase a Christmas tree, for instance. There were no tree lots to be seen and no large displays of artificial ones in stores. The few offered on base were quickly gone and I was definitely out of the loop. Eventually I asked the one person who knew--Leslie, my source of all things to know and see and do in Sicily. Leslie has taken an active interest in all things Sicilian since moving here 2.5 years ago as a military wife. Want to know where to buy blood oranges, the best authentic dinner, or a Christmas tree? She's the one to ask. For a mere 25 Euros (@ $30), I purchased a fine, fresh tree at an Italian nursery that I would never have found on my own. They wrapped it up and carefully put it in my Mini, where is just fit from windshield to rear window. Once home, I cut off the root ball and it was perfect for decorating.

The Sicilians all put up their trees on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a holiday. I was much later than that, of course.

They love Christmas lights! Each day, more and more appeared, on houses, palm trees, stores, walls, etc. The main street of Nicolosi has every window of every shop going up main street outlined with lights. It's very dazzling . . . makes one think you are going down the runway of an airport for takeoff.

On midnight of Christmas Eve, the bells ring and fireworks are shot off to herald the birth of Jesus.

One of the traditional foods eaten at Christmas here is eels! Strange, but true. We saw vats of live ones in the fish market and people were buying them like crazy.

They also eat these tall, round cakes called panettone that are sold by the thousands in the stores. They are mostly a sweet, bread-like cake with different toppings and fillings--raisins, nuts, chocolate, pistachios, cream, or fruit fillings. It seems that each region of Italy has its own version, but they are all the same size and come in a fancy box with a handle.

Like the rest of the Western world, marketers are at work and people rush to buy the biggest and best items for their friends and family. And like every else, children make out the best.


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