December 26, 2023
It was 55-degree Fahrenheit and partly cloudy as I walked to Centro Storico. I was meeting my friends, Ann and Raul, for a Christmas dinner together. People I have spoken to about dinner out on Christmas are surprised that the restaurants are open on this holiday. What I have discovered is that the main meal cooked at home is usually Christmas Eve. Dinner consists of more than one fish dish, less or no meat and the gang’s all there. Yet most of the women do the cooking plus much dolce making, and, of course, cleaning the house and doing the dishes and silverware from Christmas Eve. Christmas Day dinner out makes sense to me.
Another rather unique practice for families on Christmas is different from my childhood and adult Christmas practice. As a child, our family watched Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Scrooge and It’s a wonderful Life. Here in Italy, the most common movie watched by families is Trading Places. I do not understand why. Do you?
In Italy, the Christmas Holidays begin on December 6th with St. Nicholas Day. Next, on the 8th, it is the celebration of the Virgin Mary—that is the night that the locals usually put up their Christmas Tree after attending mass. I’ve already mentioned the 6th and 8th plus Christmas Eve and Day. Of course there are lively celebrations on Capodanno (New Year’s Eve) and dinner at Mamma’s on New Year’s Day. Finally, on the 6th of January, it is Little Christmas—the day that the Strega Nonna flies on her broomstick with candy gifts for all the children—even the bad ones get coal candy—looks like coal and tastes like candy. Children put out their shoes or Christmas Stockings out for Strega Nonna to fill.
Strega Nonna supposedly met the 3 Wise Men on the way to Bethleham with their gifts of Gold, Frankinscense and Myrr. She didn’t believe them when they told her they would be meeting this infant who would grow up to save the world and they would find him by following a star,
After they were gone, she regretted not going with them. She sought them out but could not find them. She decided to honor the little children near her home and has done so for over 2000 years.
My city of Chiavari stayed decorated with lights throughout the entire holiday season. Isn’t it beautiful?
My friends and I enjoyed an 8 course Christmas dinner at Osteria Da Ivo in Centro Chiavari. It was reservations only with a set menu. Wine and water were included and everything was delicious.
See food photos below. We had two aperitivo plates, a seafood pasta that was delicious, meat ravioli—no photo—I ate it too fast, a beef and potato plate and fried dessert. I know I have forgotten one. We ate for three hours, enjoying vino and conversation plus the people surrounding us. It was a lovely experience with excellent food and company.
After we said our farewells, the lights in centro came on. See the photos above and below of the gorgeous city of Chiavari. Even the ground was shining after a coat of rain.
As I got closer to the sea, I felt the lightness of the season that I rarely felt as a child. Whether you are a Christian or not, there is something about the light and lack thereof at this time of year. And the waves, the trees, the quiet people and the full stomachs all around and, for me, I feel the peace of the season.
Even though there are two vicious wars not far from Italy, and people suffering all over the world, I feel a hope for Peace in our future. Even as tragedy hits those we love and the children of strangers, I still feel hope.
Let there be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with ME.
Enjoy your time with family and friends. Take time to hear the silence and the music that surrounds you. Hug everybody. Be like the Italians who kiss cheeks and hug all the time.
Buon Natale, Buon Anno, Buone Feste. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Happy Holidays.
See photos below. I am still having trouble with my computer. They include the luscious food for dinner and the gorgeous walk home to the sea and along it.
Ciao for now!
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