Thursday, January 1, 2009

Buon Natale means Merry Christmas to you

Buon Natale, means Merry Christmas to you
Buon Natale, to everyone
Happy New Year and lots of fun
Buon Natale may all your wishes come true
Buon Natale in Italy means
A Merry Christmas to you

Far away across the sea
In sunny Italy
There's a quaint little town
Not a clock has been wound
For over a century

They don't know the time or year
And no one seems to care
And this is the reason
The Christmas season
Is celebrated all year

Buon Natale, means Merry Christmas to you
Buon Natale, to everyone
Happy New Year and lots of fun
Buon Natale may all your wishes come true
Buon Natale in Italy means
A Merry Christmas to you

This is officially my new favorite Christmas song as of this holiday season. As some of you may know I do love Christmas songs but they do eventually get old but I must say I am still singing this Christmas song and it is offically 2009. It mixes my Christmas in the USA and in Italy in one short adorable song.

So I know that I've been bad and that its been awhile since I updated on my blog and that it is well after Christmas and I am just now getting to the Christmas post, but here I go with the explanation of my first (but hopefully not last) Italian Christmas.

Well as all exchange students know the holiday time is one time particularly difficult in our year aboard. This is one time that is specifically set aside for families and family traditions. In our homes in the USA (or respective countries) we know exactly what is expected of us on which days, on which days we go visit our families, on which days we are allowed to sleep in, which days we know we need to get up early, what days we open presents, whether we celebrate with family or what foods we eat and at which time, who to buy gifts for and when we open them, whether you open them in public or in private or any of those small traditions that we all know in our own families. but when you are in another family, in foreign country you dont know what is the correct procedure for any of these things so it makes the holiday season rather difficult and strange because its not our normal schedule that we have finally gotten used too after 4 months and we almost go back to how we were that first week when we were still missing our families and being led around like we were 2 years old and when everything was still new. For the week of Christmas you are basically "deported" back to that first couple of weeks, with the exception of understanding the langauge, because you don't know how to celebrate or what is ok and what is wrong for that time of year.. Let me tell you, it's a very strange feeling not knowing what to do and when we do it because when I'm home in Monroe we have done the same things on the same days for as long as I can remember.

It is also very difficult to be away from home at this time of year. This is traditionally a time of year that is set aside for families and for alot of families this is the time of year when you go see your other family members that you might not see very often. But as exchange students we aren't at home we are in another home, with another family. Yes by the time we get to Christmas, we are normally well adjusted, we have a handle on the language, we are closer to our families but no matter how close we are to our families they still aren't our real families and we are still in a different place that especially for me is very different then home.

Thats in general for exchange students for me while Christmas was difficult overall I found that I really did enjoy Christmas here in Italy and that I did have alot of fun. While yes I had fun it was still hard, for me in Italy it doesn't seem like Christmas. It is still warm and there is no snow on the ground. I have lived in Wisconsin my entire life and have come to know that there is snow for Christmas, that its cold on Christmas but here in Italy, there is no snow and it doesn't get cold not even in January. So while my brain knows that its Christmas time it doesn't really accept that it's Christmas time because the things that I see around me are just so different then what I have grown up with my entire life. My body still hasn't accepted that its winter because its not cold like I'm used to around the holidays. While I'm certainly not complaining that its warm its just weird around this time of year when you're so used to one thing for so long your body and brain connect those things so when you have one without the other its strange. Like in my brain when I think of Christmas I think of snow and cold but here its not cold or snowy so the season just feels like its missing something, it feels like its not really Christmas. I'm not sure if that makes sense to anyone else but me, but that's one thing that I felt about Christmas while I was here.. Ok well I guess i should start my story of my 3 day Christmas in italy.

Yes you all read that last sentence correct I said "my 3 day Christmas in Italy" in all practicality Christmas lasts for 3 days in Italy. It starts on December 24th and ends on December 26th. Well this was obviously pretty weird for me because in the States or at least in my family Christmas is one day... Christmas.. the 24th and 26th really don't mean anything except I get to sleep in because there is no school. But in Italy you celebrate Natale all three days soooo here is what I did..

Well on the 24th we got up late because when we don't have school me and Ele both sleep in late because why should we wake up super early if there's nothing to do once we are awake and its super early? So we normally stay in bed until around 11 or noon which is really nice to sleep in because during the week we can only sleep in on Sundays because we have school on Saturdays. So anyway I knew that we would be going to my grandmothers house for dinner so I asked what time we would be going over that day and my mamma said that we would be going over there at 8pm for dinner. Well during the day we prepared the food that we were going to take over to her house and we got ready for going to her house. I told them that these would be the first good pictures that I have ever taken on Christmas for opening presents because for once my hair is done and I'm in nice clothes because it's not just how I wake up on Christmas morning lol. So we went over to my nonnas (gramma) house and when we got there were a whole bunch of people there.. All of the brothers and sister of my papà and their kids where there. All in all there were about 15 of us for dinner, and let me tell you my nonna does not live in the biggest of houses. She lives in a rather small house actually. But all the adults sat at one table and me, Ele, Nicola and Claudio sat at another table because we were the "kids" even though Claudio and Nicola are both over, or almost, 20. Well we all had dinner and I must say the only thing that was weird about the dinner at this nonnas house was the "little birds" when someone goes hunting they bring back these little birds (because to buy them there REALLY expensive) and when you eat them you have to pull off the head (because its still attached) and you eat them that way. They still have all of the guts in them and most people eat the heart and the brain. I must say seeing someone crack open the head of a little bird with their teeth was a bit gross the first time lol. The meat of these birds was actually really very good. Although I couldn't bring myself to try the head. I just couldn't eat the head of an animal (give me a few days..hahah... that story later) So dinner lasted about 2 hours so we were done at about 10:30 but we had to wait around because we open presents at midnight. Well we all waited around and me , Ele, Claudio and Nicola started to watch the Little Mermaid (me and Ele picked the movie) but we didn't get very far into it because "Babbo Natale" came to the house and brought the little kids presents. (I still haven't figured out how they trick the little kids into believing that he brings the presents if they don't go to sleep and the presents just mysteriously arrive at midnight? Oh well it works for them).

So we were all called into the main dining room where all of the adults started handing out the gifts for everyone. For each other it was usually a bottle of Champagne or something like that and for us kids it was either money, jewelry or bathroom things like perfume and lotion and things like that. It was way different to see how they do it from how we do it at my house. at my house I usually hand out all of the gifts and people open them when they want to and the person who gave the gift does not nessesarily watch you open the present. But here when someone gives you a present they watch you open it and then everyone asks to see it. Which I might add when that something is earrings that are in an unopenable box and everyone asks to see it AFTER you have spent 10 minutes opening it the first time and have already closed the box. Well after all of the gifts were handed out they gave everyone champagne and we all toasted in the New Year with champagne and pannatone. Pannatone is a dessert in Italy that is eaten at Christmas time. It has these little pieces of fruit in it that I usually pick out because I personally think they are really nasty but alot of people like them. The actual bread part is really good though. Its really sweet. Well after everyone had opened all the presents from the people at nonnas house everyone started to leave and go back to their respective houses. When me and my family got back home we then started to open the presents from everyone else in our family. It was really fun and overall I felt really included in Christmas. It wasn't as weird or as awkward as I thought that it was going to be which I'm really thankful for. After opening up all of the presents at our house we all got ready to go to bed (by this time it was like 2 am) because we all had to get up to go to Sant'Antioco for lunch the next day at my uncles house.

The rest of the 25th

Well when we got up on the 25th I still had not fully accepted that it was Christmas because my body was telling me "its too warm out and there is no snow its really October not December" Its weird being in a completely different climate then you are used to. It does not really seem like a big thing but when you have associated Christmas with cold and snow all of your life and then you suddenly have warm and no snow its kind of a shock because it doesn't really seem like Christmas. Well me and ele got ready for going to lunch at my Uncles house in Sant'antioco. I got a really big shock when I went in to the kitchen and saw that my papà was cooking a baby pig over the open fire.. No i do not mean pork chops or anything like that . I mean a whole pig with the head still attached where the slice open the stomach and then shove a metal pole up the pigs but and out the neck so that they can slowly roast it over the open fire. (pictures are on my picture web sight :D) I must say this gave me some very unnecessary bio 11 flashbacks that weren't the most pleasant memories to begin with. Well we finished getting ready and we packed up all of the food that we made and the pig and we went to my uncles house which is about 30 minutes away in the car. I must say i now know why we do not travel to relatives houses in the states. it is a pain in the butt to take all the stuff in the car then unload it then reload it again when you need to go home. well when we got there we said hi to everyone and then everyone started passing out the presents. there is no name reading or anything every individual person just starts handing out their presents and you open them as you get them. i must say i missed reading off the names of the presents then handing them out like i normally do at home. Then we finally started eating. Ive decided that I really don't like the "first dish" in Italy much. It is usually little things that all have olives in them or another type of cheese that i really don't like very much. Then the next course was pasta which is really good. but in Italy you need to remember that you have another course of meat coming so you don't eat much of the pasta because you still have to eat meat. well after the pasta came the pig. I'm not going to lie to you i was rather nervous to eat this pig. i realize that it's just pig but i don't normally see the pig with the head still attached so I'm able to pretend that its not a real animal that I'm eating but when they bring it to the table still with the head and the feet and everything you can't really pretend its not a real pig. but i was determined to try it. I took a normal piece that was just from the side or what ever you call it in "meat language ." So i preceded to eat this baby pig which in all reality was not that bad. But the bad part was i got to see my sister eat the head of the baby pig. and when i say head i mean EVERYTHING.. the brain, meat, eyes, tongue, cheeks everything. it was pretty nasty. Well after dinner we really didn't do much just sat around and waited to go home. when we did get home we did nothing because we were so tired and we had done sooooo much eating in the last 2 days we just went to bed early.. but oh wait.. the holidays aren't over in Italy.

on December 26th

Well me and ele put off getting up as long as we possibly could and when we did finally get up we had a half an hour to get ready before going back to Sant'Antioco for lunch at my Nonnas house. When we got there everyone was already there and we sat down for lunch. I must say i really was not hungry even though I hadn't ate all day because I had eaten sooo much the previous two days. So when they were dishing out the soup and the meat I didn't eat hardly anything because I just was not hungry. When you eat enough for 4 days in 2 meals your stomach is basically full for days afterwards.. Well after lunch me and ele started watching a movie on tv. around the holiday season every channel on tv had movies on because everyone is at home . We watched Ele Enchanged in Italian. And I am proud to report i understood everything. I am starting to understand sooo much now and i speak sooo much better. even in school i can write a whole page (front and back) in 2 hours in Italian. I'm proud of my Italian. Well after that we went home and basically went back to bed because we were so tired and so full.. think... thanksgiving people times 10 over .. SOOOOOO much food..!!

Well this is a little sneak peek into my holiday season here in italy. I hope that you all had a happy holiday in the USA or where ever you are in the world... HAPPY BELATED HOLIDAYS


JWood said...

Hi Kendra,
I enjoyed so much reading of your "first" Christmas in Italy. May you return there many times in the future. And thank you for sharing your experience in such great detail.
In hearing your account of Christmas and looking at your photos I was struck by how "American" and secular their Christmas celebrations have become. Since Christmas traditionally celebrated the birth of Christ, the centerpiece of Italian Christmas home decor used to be the "presepio" or manger scene. Many churches in Italy have historic presepi, especially Naples. Attendance at midnight mass on Dec 24 was once important and gifts were delivered by "La Befana" on January 6. Now, it seems all this has been replaced by Santa, Christmas trees and our traditions.

You were surprised at some of the menu items. In many respects, you are experiencing the Sardinian version of an Italian Christmas. Italy has 20 distinct regions and I often say there are 20 Italies since their traditions, foods, language and customs can vary greatly. In other parts of Italy the Dec 24 meal is completely meatless and you would have been served eel or snails. The Christmas day "pranzone" is often "tortellini in brodo" for first course (primo piatto), followed by stuffed capon for "secondo piatto". Panettone, which originated in Milan, can now be found all over the US during the holiday season. The generic term for appetizers is “antipasti” and there are many, wonderful, delicious varieties. If you didn’t like the ones you described, keep trying others.

Sounds like you've never been to a pig roast in the US!?? If that grossed out, wait til Easter. Traditionally, they eat a poor baby lamb that is not yet weaned, which makes the meat very white and tender. Buon appetito!
And not all US Christmases are cold and white--I once saw lights strung on a cactus in Arizona!
Buon Natale e Buon Anno Nuovo!
Janet Wood
Your 1-time Italian Teacher

Brian said...

Hey kiddo....... Wow. I've been reading all of your blogs and checking out the pics. Keep em coming. Kylie likes looking too. I got a pretty good kick out of the pig story. I can just picture the look on your face. Michelle and I are proud(and jealous)of you. We love and miss you. See you when you get back state side.(If we are able to steal 30 seconds of time from your mom----LMAO