Markets at Christmas
To many, Italy is the true home of Christmas. Although Christ was born in the small village of Bethlehem, his birth was not formally celebrated until three hundred years later in Rome, under the reign of Emperor Constantine. Today, Italy celebrates Christmas with both reverence and extravagance. For the public eye, this celebratory time is represented by the abundance of Italian holiday markets.
During the Christmas season, Italy's markets burst with foodstuffs as well as objects of all kinds. Visit Milan's Sant' Ambrogio Fair and you'll find decorative ornaments, figurines for the manger, as well as many terrific gift ideas. This market avenues are filled with crowds enjoying holiday treats and searching for the ideal gifts for relatives and friends.
Piazza Navona in Rome showcases a memorable portrait of beauty each Christmas season, with its spectacle of lights and extravaganza of stalls selling all manner of items. Balloons, jars of preserves, bunches of holly, colorful shawls, pots of poinsettias, stuffed bears, porcelain dolls, trinkets and sparkling baubles can be purchased at this lovely time. Just before Christmas, the auxiliary bishop of Rome blesses this famous square and walks its length of colorfully roofed kiosks.
When it comes to food, sweets top the list of most beloved treats. Torrone is sold at nearly all markets, as well as dried fruit and nuts. Every child's dream of gum drops, fudge, caramels and hard sugary candies can be found at various stalls: Palermo's holiday market even boasts candy dolls. Other markets around the country offer holiday spice cakes or Italy's customary Christmas cake, panettone. Cookies can be purchased in decorative boxes and pastries of all sorts are readily available. Be sure to look for marzipan, gingerbread and Turkish delights to treat your holiday guests.
Walk through the market and invariably see snackers munching on a special holiday sandwich of porchetta, a traditional roasted pork. Foods of all kinds-both Italian and exotic-flavor the December air. Rounds of spiced sausage such as capicolli are popular purchases. Other holiday meats like hams, turkeys and capons are purchased widely as well from these enchanting market scenes.
Of course, small towns and big cities alike congregate at these extraordinarily decorated fairs to meet celebrate special holiday ceremonies. The old and young alike shop among the amused vendors, while bells clang from nearby churches and musicians play everybody's favorite carols and songs. Christmas is a special time in Italy that is well reflected by its colorful and bountiful markets.
By J. A. Young