Monday, December 4, 2017

'Tis the Season . . . To Leave Town?

First Monday in December, and I look back to see that this time last year we were still jet-lagged, preparing for a first Christmas in our new home, a condo we'd only lived in for a few weeks before heading off for ten weeks in Europe. Waves of reality were crashing: we had no dining table or chairs yet, despite our plans to host Christmas dinner, and I grumbled about not being able to find my boots. . . or the scissors. . . . or . . 
These Nandina domestica -- Heavenly Bamboo -- berries are so festive. If only, they weren't so toxic to birds. . . .

In sharp contrast, this first December Monday sees us packing up to head to a small town near Rome.  Other than planning and packing for the trip (lists, lists, and more lists!), this Christmas promises to be the least stressful/easiest ever, although I've yet to know how I'll feel about leaving our three families here to celebrate without us. Our condo will be full while we're away: first, one family will take refuge from their kitchen reno; then the out-of-town crew will use it as a home base for their holiday visit; and on Christmas Day, our kids, their partners, and the grandkids will cook and enjoy their turkey dinner in our kitchen. Who knows,  there may even be decorations here, perhaps a tree for Santa to put a visiting two-year-old's gifts under, but all my Christmas boxes are staying in storage.

Nor am I rushing to buy and wrap gifts to be opened in my absence. Santa is always generous to these little ones, and I've decided that we give enough through the year to give us a Free Pass this Christmas. I am going to try to pick up a few picture books for the Italian Three (there's obviously a dearth of those where she lives and they don't take up much space), and I hope to make a trip into Rome to drool over toys at Al Sogno (finally, thank you Georgia!) where I'll be happy for an excuse to buy something for a girl I rarely get to see open her presents.

I expect to enjoy Christmas decorations in the various cities we'll pass through on our way to our destination, and I'm excited to see how Rome gussies up for the holiday, but meanwhile, this morning my short run in the neighbourhood took me past these baubles on a trees bare limbs. Of course, the photo sent me searching back through previous posts -- to the Christmas before last, our last Christmas on our little island, where our neighbours decorated similarly albeit in a much different setting. So many changes in that relatively short span of two years, some of them wrenching. But overall, I'm happy to report, I feel very lucky to be heading off to visit our family in Europe, and I know that when I get back in January, this urban condo will welcome me home.

For now, though, I've got those lists. And lists. . . .Only four more sleeps. . . .

29 comments:

  1. I think we all give enough throughout the year, but somehow it still seems fitting to give a Christmas gift or two. I'm interested in your take on this. Have a wonderful trip! I'm envious!

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    1. I think it's very personal, and in the end I left a small gift for each g'child to open. I don't want to feel I need to justify (we're funding a big family trip next year, are making donations in kids' names, etc.) but it seems an implicit demand here. Why would it not be just as "fitting" not to give a gift, whether physical/material gift or otherwise? And to whom? To how long a list? I'm very wary of the "should" implicit in this aspect of the tradition. It's a very recent innovation, historically speaking, to Christmas (itself a fairly recent innovation even with Christianity), and it's pretty clearly tied in with retail consumerism. I guess that's the 8-second soundbite version of my take on this, and I hope you might be able to tell that I'm actually more Santa than Grinch, year-round ;-)

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  2. I think it will be just wonderful - no need to generate the festive environment, finding it yourself in Rome with a small group of loved ones and of course a little one.

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  3. I hope you enjoy it...there's another little thing you might like while you're there. The door to Al Sogno is on Piazza Navona, and as you face the door the 'dressed' windows are just around the corner to your right. If you pass the windows and then turn left, you'll find a little fenced off area where you can peek into the old stadium under the Piazza. It's only a few steps, you're looking under the shop next to Al Sogno I would guess. Buon viaggio!

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    1. I will try to remember this, Georgia. We stayed very close to the Piazza Navona on our first visit to Rome (which I'm surprised to realize was only three years ago) and yet never managed to get to Al Sogno. Thanks for guiding me in that direction -- I shall report back ;-)

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  4. Have a lovely, wonderfully carefree Christmas, Frances. xo

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    1. And the same to you, although we'll be back-and-forthing on our blogs between now and then, I'm sure.

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  5. Happy travels Frances! I've often thought I'd like to spend a Christmas completely away from home. And how interesting that the family back in Canada will be making good use of your apartment! I'm sure they will miss your presence though.

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    1. Thanks Patricia. Yes, it's going to be a great connection, really, having them in our place (although, to be honest, we didn't choose the light-toned, hand-knotted big rug in the living-area with free-range g'kids in mind! ;-) -- I'm hoping we can FaceTime something on Christmas Day, although the 9 hours time difference is tricky to manage. . . .

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  6. Have a wonderful time. We are all looking forward to postings from far away places.
    Ali

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    1. Thank you, and postings there will be. . . .

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  7. This sounds sane. I too am adjusting to a very scaled-down period of festive preparation and thoroughly enjoying it. What fun to be able to choose presents to bring back from your travels, wandering through the glittery streets of Rome, pausing only for a coffee to warm up. At least, that's how I imagine it. Enjoy all the panettone.

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    1. I like your imaginings -- in reality, we'll be doing daycare pickup in a small beach town, and the wanderings through Rome's streets are dependent on figuring out the awkward transit connections to make sure we're back in time that Little Girl doesn't get locked into the daycare overnight (#kiddingnotkidding). . . .And the carry-on travel severely restricts the possiblities for bringing presents back home. . . The panettone, though, I know I can do the panettone ;-)

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  8. Have a wonderful, warm trip! With technology today, you can stay connected, hear of Santa's visits and share your day with your family at home.

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    1. Isn't it marvellous, this technology? When I think of the difference even from 10 or 15 years ago. . . Or the flight home from London I missed when I was 18 and my relatives cabled my parents because phoning was "too dear"!

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  9. Sounds really splendid! I've always wanted to try a Christmas away from home but still with my immediate family along. I agree that it will be stress free to be in a different environment and not have to generate the festivities but enjoy what is offered. Have a wonderful trip!

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    1. Thanks, slf! I'm looking forward to the experience -- I love tradition, but it seems worthwhile to change it up, to relinquish even, occasionally, just to remember we can choose. And maybe thus value what we do choose even more.

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  10. Looking forward to learning about an Italian Christmas with it’s different traditions . Hope you have time to take some photos for us . Have fun .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Me too! Of course, we won't be learning much about real Italian Christmas traditions in the home, not with our little ex-pat family, but I'm sure we'll spot many on the streets and in the shops. And I'll do my best to take photos.

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  11. Oh, lucky you, going to Rome, but such a long flight from Vancouver... What part of Lazio do they live in?

    Anonymous, one of the most important is that Christmas Eve feast is "magro", no meat and theoretically no dairy, though the latter depends on how the family interprets it; many a buttery panettone is eaten then nowadays. The fish and vegetable based meal resembles the old Lenten rules, but it is a joyous occasion, not one for penitence.

    But the idea of "seven fishes" is more Italian-American than Italian.

    Some other traditionally Catholic societies such as Poland also eat a meatless Vigilia feast.

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    1. Thanks for that Lagatta . We have a Polish girl joining us for Christmas dinner this year & I looked up their traditions . Apparently the meatless meal on Christmas Eve is to thank the animals that visited Jesus - I like that idea as all my meals are meatless .
      Wendy in York

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    2. Wendy, Anna Thomas who wrote the Vegetarian Epicure decades ago has a whole chapter on Christmas foods, especially Polish as she is of that origin, probably with some Mexican touches as her husband is Mexican. I attended a Polish Christmas eve party in Paris and there was no (mammalian) meat or poultry served, but there was fish. Though of course all meatless is fine!

      I'm reading that supposedly Poles didn't drink any strong beverages because of the religious import of the evening, but my Polish-French friends certainly did; French wines as well as Polish vodka.

      You must have good Polish delis in York: one thing I'd suggest, other than red cabbage of course is pierogi, especially a traditional kind that is actually vegan: sauerkraut and mushrooms.

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    3. That was my favourite cookery book at one time , must dig it out . Yes we have a good Polish deli/restaurant & they sell pierogi but only meat ones . I’m wary of including any Polish traditions for fear she is overcome with homesickness & it makes her sad ! Thought I better make it a traditional British affair ( my sister will bring the turkey already cooked ). I am really interested in how other countries celebrate though so will quiz her , gently
      Wendy

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    4. Lagatta, you're right, such a long flight from Vanc'r, and it's not possible to fly direct, so we'll do part of the trip overland. . . you'll see, in the next few posts. I'm deliberately oblique about the small town they live in.
      I'm enjoying this discussion between you and Wendy about the Christmas Eve meal -- Now I'm wondering if my copies of The Vegetarian Epicure (Books One and Two) survived the downsize/culling of last year. . . their pages were certainly well-stained! ;-)

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    5. PS my friend asked her new Rumanian daughter in law what they ate for Rumanian Christmas dinner & she said ‘ in Rumania we eat crap at Christmas ‘ - she actually meant carp :)
      Wendy

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  12. Have a marvellous trip Frances,enjoy your Roman family and Rome-it would be great,I'm sure!
    And isn't it wonderful to come back to the condo that has become real home :-)?
    We eat fish on Christmas Eve,some even fast till the midnight and Christmas and have a feast then.
    Traditional dish is Baccală brodetto-we go out for the lunch- and I prepare fish dishes for the dinner. My mother prepares Christmas lunch (and as we live in apartments in the same house,there is a lot of sharing and helping and going up and down the stairs!)
    What I like about Italy is that their tradition involves going out for Easter or Christmas lunch,so everyone dress up and nobody has to stay home and prepare lunch.
    Dottoressa

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    1. I love reading about all these different traditions (and I do like picturing your family at that table where Paul and I enjoyed that marvellous feast last June!).
      And I like the idea of going out for those festive lunches, especially since my experience so far in Italy convinces me that even very active children like my g'daughter are tolerated, at least, in the restaurant, and more often are fussed over with delight by the servers.

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  13. Materfamilias, I deliberately did NOT ask the name of the village. I stayed in one of the Castelli for a while (such a relief after the worst of the summer heat in Rome) but everyone is curious about "outsiders", even if they are from the next village. I've been to other parts of Lazio as well.

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