I’m quite excited about having my first Italian Christmas. Last year was a major contrast as we were living in Transylvania, the centre of Romania. Also, I was pregnant last year, with hopes and dreams of my baba to come. There was no turkey, no presents, and no hoo-haw. It was a major contrast to a Canadian Christmas. This year, Nonna was convinced that we were having turkey (which had to be ordered weeks in advance) on the 24th. She needed to be reminded that Santa visits on the eve of the 24th. Unlike Christmas day in Canada, Italians usually prepare dinner for the both the 24th and 25th. Can you imagine how much food is needed? I am completely in love with visiting the supermarket right now. The stacks of panettone, Perugia chocolates, and Italian vino is so overwhelming. What to buy? What to buy?!
I must admit, I’ve only cooked a turkey once in my life and it was a teeny tiny one at that. When I asked an Italian friend “What do you eat for Christmas dinner?” she looked at me like I should have know this already and replied, “Lasagne!”. Lasagne? On Christmas? Not in our household! We’re doing the full spread with all the trimmings, as they say. But of course, Nonna wanted to enhance the turkey, adding a handful of unnecessary Italian inspired ingredients. So I’m gathering all I need, studying the best of the best recipes, taking the advice of turkey making veterans from home, in preparation for a good old Canadian feast.
Perhaps I should be taking the Italian Christmas customs more on board. Perhaps we should be having dinner on Christmas eve, with an abundance of fish, pasta, and tiramisu for dessert. But I miss home. Obviously this time of year is the hardest on all expatriates around the world. I miss the long dining table, filled with family members. I miss stuffing ourselves at dinner, taking a nap, then stuffing ourselves again with leftovers. I miss the hung stockings, hoards of presents under the tree, and the obligation to spend time with the family. Like the old song goes, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”…and with a full belly. Buon Natale a tutti!
Thanks so much to pompombazar for featuring us in their bella Italian Girl Treasury!
Since living in Italy, one of the most used phrases in my vocabulary has been “Mi dispiace, non parlo Italiano” (I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian). Despite my best efforts, I fail to retain any of the Italian language. What I find funny is that I have dreams that I’m speaking Italian. Whether or not I’m actually speaking Italian is something that cannot confirm. Perhaps my subconscious mind is retaining it, however my conscious mind is retarded and can’t spit these words from my tongue-tied mouth.
My mother-in-law doesn’t speak English. She repeatedly nags me to “speak Italian and Romanian, Affie!”. To be honest, it’s a gift that I don’t speak the same language as my mother in law. But after almost a year of living in Italy, I now feel like the village ignoramus who runs home crying whenever somebody tries to speak to her. Don’t get me wrong, I understand about 75% of what everyone is saying – it’s the response that is lacking. Sometimes I’ll ask, “Parla Inglese?” (Do you speak English?) to which most people reply “no”. What I find interesting is that despite Italians not being able to speak English, and despite them knowing that I don’t speak Italian, they’ll continue to rattle on about this and that. My trips to the water fountain to retrieve the spring water is the place I dread the most. Especially having a baby by my side, every Tom, Dick and Harry (Tommaso, Riccardo, and Arnaldo) wants to chat to me. What I also find interesting is that a vast majority of street signs, products, and entertainment in Italy is displayed in English, yet they don’t speak the language.
I was chatting to another English speaking expat one day about my troubles. I said to her, “I feel sorry for Italians who don’t speak English. They’re missing out on a major part of the world”. She replied, “I feel sorry for you, because you’re missing out on one of the most beautiful languages in the world”. She was right.
So I plunk on, trying to retain the smallest amount of Italian that I can muster. Perhaps one day I will be able to speak Italian, but for now I will just bathe in it’s beauty which is all around me.
The dreaded water fountain