It’s a funny thing about customs: my custom may be your oddity. We were in Italy at Christmas time. Grams and Big Guy were looking for Christmas decorations, but the decorations didn’t go up until a couple of days before Christmas Eve. There were no Santas on the street corners with bells, and none in the department stores. Then I explained to them that, outside of the U.S., Christmas is celebrated on the Epiphany: the 6th of January or Three Kings Day. This was the day that the three wise men (kings) finally made it to Bethlehem. The 12 days of Christmas start on the 25th of December and last until the 5th of January. Christmas is celebrated and presents are exchanged on the Epiphany.
So, there we were in Firenze, Italy on Christmas Eve and we decided to take a walk along the Arno. As we approached the Uffizi, we saw a crowd gathered down by the riverbank. Then we noticed a gondola. Grams thought that it was odd to see a gondola outside of Venezia. Then we saw the skinny Santas. They were taking people for rides in the gondola. Now Italy does have a version of jolly old Saint Nick, his name is Babbo Natale. But a witch named La Befana brings the presents to sleeping children on the eve of the Epiphany.
The very next Christmas we were in Madrid. In Spain the Spaniards really adhere to the Epiphany celebration. They even have one of the 3 kings instead of Santa at the Cortes des Ingles department store. You’ll remember that Corte des Ingles is turned into “Cortylandia” during the Christmas season. "Cortylandia, Cortylandia, vamos todos a cantar..." That song, once heard, cannot be forgotten.
We opened our presents on the 25th of December. Old habits die hard.
Please give what you can to Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
*I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
and presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas,
If only in my dreams.