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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

A very Roman holiday

One last holiday left in this season, La Befana on January 6 (or Epiphany/Three Kings day as it is known elsewhere), but for many of us, it is back to ordinary time, reality, tomorrow.

We used up all our vacation days between the wedding and our honeymoon in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. So this year, we spent the holidays in Rome. Quite honestly, it is funny that in the 8+ years I have lived here, I have never been in Rome for the holidays. But as I have written in other posts, to me, Christmas is very much about tradition, and my tradition is to be in Canada with family, playing our silly games and dressing in our silly hats or costumes or whatever the theme was of the year. I was sad to miss it this year.

But it was also our first year as a married couple and perhaps our last year in Rome, so we decided to start our own traditions and to really make the most of being in the Eternal City during the holidays.

This experience started by getting tickets to Midnight mass at the Vatican. When the traditional route of requesting them by fax 1.5 months prior failed, there was the back up plan of "who do you know" and a friend had a friend with extra tickets. So we were there at St. Peter's Square on 24 December at 18:00 for a 21:30 mass. Although, between the wait, the mass and the exodus we were there for 6 hours total, it was completely worth it to see this wholly (and holy!) unique, humble and unconventional Pope, Papa Francesco. I was personally honored to be able to sit in a mass celebrated by such a wonderful and refreshing leader of our church.

Though I have heard that many Romans never actually go to this mass, to us, it felt like a very Roman event indeed. So did la passeggiata in the Center to see this year's lights, and watching the array of fireworks around town from the Gianicolo on New Year's Eve. It felt like all of Rome was there with us.
With the crowds, this is best picture I could get
from New Year's Eve on the Gianicolo
We cooked Arabic and Filipino food for about 40 people when we had 7 coming over. I made gluhwein. We decorated our tree with purple ornaments, hung a purple wreath on our door. and our neighbor, perhaps more conventional than we, asked us if purple was a traditional Canadian Christmas color. We put up stockings and placed large Nordic stars, like we had seen in Denmark, in our windows. We ate panettone, torrone and way too much food and wine in general. And, as over-cooking and over-eating are some of the staples of the Italian holiday season, I think we succeeded in having our genuine Roman holiday. We will see where we are next year, but I hope it is a mix of our old and new traditions.