LIFE/Anna Matteucci: The Christmas Season Begins in Viterbo

As late November rapidly approaches the feeling on the cobblestone streets of Viterbo shifts to a lighter mood accompanied by the warm cioccolata calda served in every café. Small acknowledgements of the holiday season are starting to emerge in the shop windows and entryways along Via G. Garibalbi, reminding the occasional onlooker of the Christmas checklist, that develops in every household, of tasks to complete by the holiday.
Signs of Christmas pop up in Viterbo about a complete month after they would begin appearing in America. The traces of holly and tinsel are welcomed with open arms, as they aren’t rushing to enter the public scene before their proper time. Depictions of Santa are at least currently not as prevalent as would be found in American decor, instead focusing more on the naturalistic side in terms of snow, greenery, and reindeer. Although a Saint may have inspired Santa, clearly the Italians haven’t embraced him as readily.
I’ve enjoyed seeing panettone on the supermarket shelves the most, as the stereotypical American fruitcake is grotesque in comparison. I’m curious whether or not I’ll start to hear Christmas music pour out from the shops onto the street, not that I’d know Italian Christmas music if I heard it.
Lights have been strung directly inside Porta Romana, and even when they aren’t lit seem to give a warm feeling to the newfound brisk wind. The weather has changed fairly rapidly here in Viterbo, and scarves of every pattern imaginable can be seen everywhere. In addition to the puffy jackets that adorn the majority of the people on the street, the realization that winter has arrived sets in.
No one seems to mind the cold, the change serves as an excuse to bundle up and begin the warm traditions associated with winter. I’ve been told snow is unlikely in the region, which is a shame as the locals happily describe heavenly display when the snow blankets the Viterbo walls. I can’t help but smile as the holiday cheer permeates the activity of daily life, knowing the season of expectation will lead to my arrival back in the US, where I just might see the snow I long for.