There is really nothing quite like a European Christmas. The spirit and festivity is utterly alive, underpinned by a strong religious backbone which makes the occasion ever the more charming and spiritual.
This was to be my first Christmas without my immediate family, and I must admit that prior to arriving in Milan, i was pained with an intense feeling of nostalgic emotion. Homesickness infects all of us, even if we wish it didn’t. There’s no denying that home will always be home – no matter how much we’re glad or sad to have departed from it.
But, for an Italian Christmas I was to go, while my family celebrated it 40,000 miles away with seafood and sunshine.
The thing that always astonishes, invigorates and wets my curiosity about Italy is that it’s a country full of so much diversity yet also unification. The people, culture and language may be unified, but a lot about this country is also not.
I have travelled throughout Italy and I’m always amazed that you can go from one town to the next and eat food of total variety and differentiality. Arancini in Sicily, Pappardelle with boar in Tuscany and saffron risotto in Milan. Naturally, every meal is accompanied with a full glass of soft Chianti.
Food is ever an integral part of Italian life, even more so at Christmas. We sat down to a full meal of fish and other seafood assortments for Christmas Eve – fitting really, when you consider the religious undertones.
For Natale itself, meat was the main feature. Antipasto with lashings of prosciutto, primo corso consisted of full-bodied and rich lasagne, secondu was Vitelli Tornato and we finished with pannatone.
Christmas is a time of family – yet nobody identifies that it has to be your immediate family. Family is an ambiguous term and make of it what you will. This Christmas, I was so far away from my mother, father and brother and the absence was slightly disheartening. But nevertheless, I thoroughly integrated myself into my boyfriends family. So much so, that I have the physical ramifications to show for it – 5 kilos heavier but nonetheless lighter in spirit.
Buon Natale everyone – Merry Christmas.