Well, I am on my way back to the US for the home-time portion of this holiday season, so I feel it’s time to review my holiday fun list for the Italian side of things:
Enjoy Christmas market weekend with dear old friends– this is a fun tradition that has developed around my best friend’s birthday: the past few years (except 2020, for obvious reasons) we have gone to the Trentino region (near the Austrian border) for the weekend to celebrate her end of November birthday. This almost always includes visits to traditional local Christmas markets, and sort of serves to kick off the Christmas season. This year’s plan includes a cozy apartment we are renting for the night together in a place with a mini-spa facility. Win. – This went swimmingly.
- Procure and decorate a Christmas tree for our apartment – I am not sure the boyfriend feels as strongly as I do about Christmas trees (actually, I’m almost certain he doesn’t) but I’ve decided that I personally want our little apartment to have a real tree for it’s first Christmas. – Also a winner. I stopped by Ikea (weirdly a good source of live Christmas trees in Italy) on my way home from work the Monday after the above weekend trip and acquired a tree, a pot to put it in (they come with roots on in Italy!), and some good old Ikea meatballs and mashed potatoes. I then proceeded to dig some soil out of our (mostly empty, so far) raised flowerbeds for the tree to live in, and surprised the boyfriend upon his return from work with a tree with lights on it and delicious Ikea-themed feast. ‘Twas a good and cozy evening of decorating.
Enjoy the Christmas lights in Parma, where I work. – Yup! Enjoy the Christmas lights in Reggio, where I used to live. – Yup!
- Enjoy the Christmas lights of Bologna, just because it’s sort of nearby and I like them. Bonus, I could meet a new colleague in person after months of only knowing each other via MS Teams! – Nope! Alas, did not make it to Bologna for the Christmas lights this year, or to meet my new colleague. I suppose I will have a nice trip to Bologna to look forward to in the sometimes-dreary January/February period.
- Red Cross Christmas party – for various reasons, these have always been kind of awkward and I’m looking forward to attending one where I am officially and comfortably With the boyfriend and have an established friend group within the Red Cross. – Nope! This was almost cancelled due to covid, and I got spooked – what if I caught covid or even just got quarantine as a result of going to it (a gathering of 200-ish volunteers, usually) and couldn’t travel home for Christmas? Not worth the risk.
Christmas lunch with the boyfriend’s family– we have started doing an early Christmas lunch before I leave for the US and it’s become a fun tradition. – Yup! This was delightful. Friend Christmas– a tradition we started way back in 2010, I think. The English teacher bunch of friends (now with various Italian partners and, in one case, the first baby of the group!) gathers for a Christmas lunch and gift exchange. – And this was even more delightful! I absolutely love these lunches and afternoons of delicious food (we each always make the same part of the meal – I am assigned veggies, personally – and have gotten pretty good at it over the years!) and cozy friendship and exchanging small no-pressure gifts. Related to the above, enjoy making Christmas gift bags– there’s a “homemade or under 5 euro” cap to gifts for friend Christmas, and I love assembling these. They always include homemade Christmas cookies, and this year I’m also planning on Christmas-themed tea lights (thank you Ikea) and a pair of Christmas socks for everyone. – Delightful as always – see little gift bags neatly gathered under our tree above. Also related to the above, baking Christmas cookies with the boyfriend!– Yes! We actually did this twice, and the second time was lovely: I got out of work early on the last Friday of the semester, drove home through actual snow, and we spent the rest of the afternoon baking along to Christmas music while the snow came down. We had also just put up icicle lights outside, and the whole situation could not have been any more lovely in any way I can think of! Sort of related to the above, Christmas shopping with the boyfriend!– Yup! This was fun. We enjoyed walking around Parma and Reggio and enjoying the Christmas lights and we were even quite efficient with finding gifts! Spend cozy times snuggling on the couch and admiring our lovely (I’m assuming) Christmas tree and decorations. – Success! We finished off the last season of Casa de Papel (appears to be called Money Heist in English, which is markedly less atmospheric) over several nights of cozy sofa time in front of the Christmas tree.