Christmas in Amalfi

Sitting at my computer reading through my messages from Italy and looking at those always delightful photographs, I’m thinking about what will be happening in Amalfi to prepare for Christmas.   There you really know something truly important is being celebrated and I’m wondering –   is the tree yet lit up in the piazza?  are the little carved Nativity  figures already placed in the fountains with the tiny cribs still empty, waiting for the birth of Jesus?    Certainly shops shelves will be heavy with the panettone, lights will be strung along the streets and on the tall Christmas tree on the seafront, all the bars decorated, music playing.    Christmas Eve is the day of celebration, with fish being the main ingredient for a very special lunch, all-day activity in the Cathedral with the evening candle-lit service for children, the youngest of whom will, back at home, carry the tiny figure of Jesus through each room  ready to place Him in His crib as midnight strikes

New Year is welcomed in with more excellent food, music and dancing in the Piazza and the famous firework comet sent down from a mountain top to the Cathedral steps.   At midnight there is always yet another stupendous Amalfi firework displays, for which people leave their hotels, dining rooms or restaurants to watch from the beach.   Many then go home, while the younger ones walk round to Atrani for more music and dancing in that delightful little piazza.    The following morning now weary revellers stage a procession from the back of Amalfi down to the main Piazza, with traditional musical instruments and an elderly man carrying a young child, he being the Old Year and the child the New.   Festivities are wound up with more music on the Cathedral steps and then life returns to normal.

 

 

Rituals following Death

The rituals surrounding Death were yet another revelation to me.   Unlike the UK where funerals usually take place at least a week after the event, in Italy people are despatched within 24 hours.   For any relatives living at some distance, it might not be possible to arrive in time;    where it was quite unexpected, the rush to prepare everything can be exceptionally stressful for those who were close.   The first sign is the notices which are posted on the relevant boards throughout the town, with name of the Departed, their family, time and place of the funeral.   When my father-in-law died,  I was surprised by the arrival of sympathisers with their traditional packets of sugar and coffee. a symbolic nourishment.   He was taken to the smaller of two cemeteries in town, but for those who wanted to join their family in the larger plot, it was necessary for their coffin to be carried uphill for some considerable distance. As a result,occasionally a bearer or follower has been known to suffer a fall or other such injury during their climb.   When my mother-in-law died some years later, I was expected to sit in a very cold little room with her body for several hours so that she should not be left alone;  her sons of course, were busy elsewhere.  There were also rituals which kept children away from school and not allowed to play outside, whilst some families would not even hang out their washing.     However, when my own mother died, far away in London,  not one of these rituals was expected to be followed.

 

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the cemetery, with all the arches along its walls, can be seen dominating the town.