Although Christmas is, perhaps, the Western festivity that best captures both mind and pockets of people all around the world, local traditions have proudly spread everywhere, proving that cultural assimilation is a very complex phenomenon indeed. The times they are a-changin, sings Bod Dylan, and traditions are evolvingalong with them. But without disappearing completely …
For example, here in the South of Italy we have many traditions related to Christmas and Christmas holiday in general. We decorate our houses with the presepe, we play tombola and other games with relatives and friends, and we eat as much mostaccioli and roccocò as we can. The whole Christmas period is mostly dedicated to staying in with the family, visiting relatives or going out to the movies or to take a walk and see Christmas illuminations. There’s an old saying that goes like: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” (Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want): OK, this looks amazing if you live on your own and go back to your parents’ house just for Christmas holiday. But if you live with them the whole year, Christmas starts eerily looking a little bit like a nightmare you can’t escape.
Christmas with your family
Italian young adults who still live with their parents have been unjustly put in a catch-all category named bamboccioni (people from 20 to 30 or even more who still live with their parents). I know things are different in other countries as I’ve lived in many places and moved out when I was 19. However, for many different reasons I now find myself still living with my parents. But what does it have to do with Christmas?
Let me state that no, I don’t want to steal your Christmas. Ideally, I like spending 48h(+) straight with my family eating myself to death, watching the same old reassuring movies every year. I do love this, ideally. Truth is that when you’re still living with your parents you just can’t cope with all these Christmas and New Year galore. They’re just too many holiday in a row maybe? I don’t know. The thing I know is that I can spend from a minimun to ONE to a maximum of THREE of these days of
joy together with my family. Trespassing this limit means snapping suddenly like a crazy person or getting an eating disorder from compulsive streess eating.
They need me, I must save them from their loneliness.
Before going on, let me give a little background here. I’m talking from experience when I say that I can put up with just a limited period of Christmassy period. I have also spent Christmas holiday away from home and I must confess that it was kind of depressing. On the other hand, when I was living in London I decided to come back home for Christmas Day and go back before New Year’s Eve. Best decision ever. I got to live all this movie-like atmosphere, you know, reuniting with the people you love, feeling all the warmth and then I just went back to my normal life recharged and full of joy and gratitude. It was the right amount of time for people to be together and sincerely enjoy each other. But when you find yourself still living with your family for various reasons, Christmas is a real trap.
So I don’t mean to be a giant killjoy here but I think we all have to sit down and talk about the forthcoming holiday. This post is a sort of intervention for all the so-called bamboccioni out there against Christmas overdose. Because we need to face reality and stop pretending we know Jingle Bells lyrics by heart and that we’re lovin’ it. We must unite and take over.
You got 1 unread intervention: it’s time for some REALITY vs EXPECTATIONS revelation.
For this reason, I have thought of 5 of the most annoying things about Christmas holiday when you’re stuck with your family 24/7 .
1. Everything is closed (and if it isn’t, it’s not worth going)
You might rightly say “why don’t you just go out?”. Well, if you did you’ve obviously never spent Christmas day in Italy. Even though now the situation is really changing, many shops and facilities go (justly) on holiday during this period. This means that almost everything is closed or, if it isn’t, that the service is shitty as the place is overcrowded and you can see from the faces of the people working there that they’d rather die than serve you your Spritz.
Nobody loves Jesus these days.
2. Oh, the family drama.
Being gathered with your whole family just seems to be the breeding ground for cutting remarks, throwing shade and the resurrection of old grudges. Maybe I’m exaggerating, maybe it’s the many hours spent together, maybe it’s just the high level of sugar in the blood. I don’t know, but if there’s one thing that Hollywood-produced Christmas movies have realistically depicted is the Christmas family drama.
Just chillax and shut your mouth with more pandoro.
3. The presents.
You already feel bad for being 26 and still living under the same roof of your parents. You don’t want and don’t really need anything. And yet, the usual unwearable jumper or tight-fitting dress is in for you. Now I don’t want to sound an ungrateful little bastard, but, honestly, I will never understand how people that have given me life just suck at giving me presents.
“I expected nothing and I’m still let down”
4. The movies, the songs, the everything.
♪ IIIII dooon’t want a looot for Christmaaaas…. There is just one thing I neeed…♪… Aaaall I want for Christmas is….youuuuuuu ♪. I love this song, I really do. But how many times a day do I have to listen to it? Please, write some new songs or defrost some more Micheal Bublé albums. We create pop idols by the minute, why can’t we create a new Christmas song? Also, here in Italy Christmas period’s TV show schedule is more like a ritual. We need our Disney movies like Mary Poppins and Beauty and The Beast and some classics like Trading places and rom-com like Love Actually. Moreover, we have our cinepanettoni, light-hearted and farcical Italian comedies released in mid-late December right on time for Christmas day. But do we have to produce all these cheap quality stuff or put on repeat the same old songs and movies? From the perspective of someone who doesn’t take part in all this Christmas frenzy, it seems that we’re really forced to fit into this consumerism-oriented thing no matter what. You have no choice: either you stay home away from the madding crowd or you join the group while deeply inspiring and exhaling to release the stress.
We must save the Magic of Christmas? Not today.
5. NEW YEAR’S EVE.
There are three days in the Italian calendar that command you to have fun. Not just simple fun but SUPER FUN like the rest of your life will depend on how much fun you’ll have on these days. One is August 15th, another is Easter Monday and the last is New Year’s Eve. “What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?” should be the most irksome question ever. Nobody really answers the question. It seems like there’s a New World Order of NYE people that need to keep it secret. Where do they go? What do they do? Nobody knows. When I’m home, I stay in, feeling miserable while watching Carlo Conti’s countdown as I see my youth passing by and saying goodbye.
In The Matrix people were not programmed for planning New Year’s Eve.
I hope you took all this article with irony& a pick of salt! Now we want to hear about you! What is that most annoys you about Christmas? Tell us in the comment section!
When people ask me if Italian people can speak English, I genuinely don’t know what to reply. The reason is that, implied in this simple question, there is a double assumption: the first is the level of the language itself, but the second is the ability to actually use English as the global language, the key to communicate with everyone everywhere in the world. So, it’s not just about the actual proficiency of Italian learners (or Japanese, or French for that matter) but whether they are able to communicate with people who can’t speak their language. And this second covert meaning is what I’m going to focus on.
Truth is that here in Italy, speaking halfway an invented and italianized English and the Italian gestures language, many people manage to communicate without mastering English. I’ve seen elderly people in Naples making themselves perfectly understandable to an American or Chinese tourist just using their hands. Perhaps, even in this supposedly globalized world, not having a good command of English doesn’t necessarily mean that communication is hard or even impossible.
English is the key to communication, but not all the English native speakers are successful communicators: how’s that?
What if we reverse the question: are English native speakers always comprehensible everywhere with everyone? Not really. According to a recent article published on the BBC website, Native English speakers are the world’s worst communicators. It’s not you, it’s me, sort of. It seems that, when it comes to deliver a message in English, people who speak it as a second language do it better. Paradoxically, in a situation where English is used as the lingua franca, Anglophones are both the ones hard to follow and the ones having difficulty understanding.
When English is not their mother tongue, people tend to do three things: they use it more carefully, they limit their vocabulary, and they make their expressions simpler. The crux of the matter is that English native speakers should adjust and accomodate their speaking to the levels of fluency of the people they’re talking to. Unfortunately, many Anglophones are monolingual. This means that, not having learnt another language, their ears are not quickly receptive to language variations.
What does actually happen when your English pronounciation is TOO GOOD:
You might have experienced the same if you’re not a English native speaker but are highly fluent. Travelling around the world I’ve had the clear feeling that being able to speak a good English didn’t necessarily mean that the conversation was going to be smooth and crystal-clear. Why? Because when it came to a conversation with non Anglophones, I had to switch to a more pronounced Italian accent and simplify my vocabulary more often than what I expected. It’s not only about different proficiency levels. It’s just that Standard English might not be the real language spoken around the world.
The reasons why English is the global language have nothing to do with its apparent simplicity. Indeed, they are historical and connected to the British colonial expansion, as well as to the rise of the US as a superpower after WWII. But languages constantly change. As there are American and British varieties, so there are many “Englishes” spoken all over the world.
English varieties are interesting because, given its very status as a global language, English can be (and actually is) appropriated by virtually everyone. As this article from the the blog the Oxford dictionaries blog shows, speakers of World English are changing the language in many creative ways. Ironically, the more “English” is used as a global language, the more it gets diversified and localized, and the less is “English”. In a way, the earlier “it’s not you, it’s me” becomes more like “it’s both of us“: it might be the case that Anglophone don’t adjust and are less receptive, but we must also admit that non-native speakers do “internalize” English and can apply their mother tongue structures and meanings to it.
When the English communication fails:
That being said, what about those situations where every possible kind of English ends up by being just utterly useless? What happens when communication breaks down? Personally, when it happened to me, I realized that my Italian heritage helped me a lot.
As everyone in the world knows, Italians speak a lot and are very loud. Moreover, we tend to use our whole body (especially hands) when speaking so that we can actually have some brief conversation without talking. Although this “phenomenon” (which is more common in the south of Italy), is obviously not as global and widespread as English, it’s still a powerful tool for people who have it. Like monolingual Anglophones tend to adjust less than a bi-or trilingual Anglophone, so being raised with these double communication skill can help a lot.
Even though body language and gestures are not the same all over the world, it seems to me that, when trying to empathize with someone, they are far more reliable than English and its varieties. It’s not only related to Italian gestures. When travelling and visiting new places it’s very useful to know how locals communicate through their specific body language.
A more accurate definition of communication skills
So going back to my initial question, I think we should differentiate between language proficiency and communication skills. We can perfectly master a language and being unable to make ourselves clear whereas a low (or very low) level of proficiency doesn’t hinder our ability to communicate. In other words, English as we know it may not be the sole guarantor of cross-cultural communication.
English might still be the officially recognized global language but when it comes to connect with people and create human bonds, being creative, receptive, flexible and even “ready to look ridicoulous” are far more relevant skills.
Have you ever experienced something like this?
We are grown-ups now, we don’t do silly stuff like wearing absurd costumes or decorating our rooms with weirdly-looking pumpkins. No, absolutely not, said the girl who was humming “This is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween!” since Monday morning. Because let’s face it, the more we grow up, the less we are dorky teenagers that divide the world in “cool” and “uncool” stuff. Now that we do have grown up, we can unabashedly say that Halloween is cool. Period. Case closed.
If you disagree with that let me convince you with 5 perfect, classic and super easy things to do for a cool and cozy Halloween.
1. Visit a creepy place to get in the mood.
We don’t live near a ghosts-infested castle somewhere in the English beautiful countryside. Neither we live in some eerie place in Indiana like the one where all-time fave Stranger Things is set.
Going home alone at night on a street that doesn’t have any light near a scary forest? Nooooope.
But everyone of us do have in our own towns a slightly creepy place where something must have happen and where nobody goes. If you happen to be in Naples, you are doubly lucky because the city is plentiful of spooky places. Reddit and believe it. Anyway, going around and discover new places is a good way to chill but, sometimes, it can also give you the chills (please at least laugh at my attempts to be witty).
2. Go and buy candies. Lots of them.
Grab candies, chocolate bars, gummy bears, whatever you like. Then invite your friends, order tons of pizza and be prepared to sin wickedly. ‘Cause it’s Halloween, babe. Dead are coming back from the Other World. So you’re entitled to eat like there’s no tomorrow because everything, everything is valid. But not DIET. Ugh.
Scariest joke EVER. Don’t ever do that to me.
3. Be creatively stupid and make a costume.
Creativity has nothing to do with money. You don’t need to buy a costume, nor ask Uncle Google for advice. Just free your imagination , let your demons loose and exlpore your dark side. Use unwearable old clothes, cut them as you like, wear the creepiest make up you can come up with and befriend the hairspray. You’ll get unthinkable results.
Or just get naked and be wonderful.
You’re in the mood for Halloween. You’re stuffed like a pumpkin for all the candies you’ve gulped down. You got your costume. Pizza is finally here. It’s time. Don’t be the usual lazy-ass and prepare the movies in advance (Wikipedia is here to help). Classics are the best but spare some time for some fun (ex: Scary Movie, Frankenstein Junior) and for some nostalgia (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Donnie Darko etc), too.
It’s definitely not just for Christmas time.
5. Have a séance or pull a prank on your coward friend.
Ouija is not only the title of a movie but it’s a talking board. It’s supposed to make contact with the spirits of the dead but come oooooon, riiiiiiiiight?! Who believes that, anyway!? Well, I don’t know but I know that I would be totally scared to play that game. I’d rather be a mean person and pull a prank on a friend. It’s good for a laugh and for a memory that will haunt the poor victim forever. Otherwise, there’s always UNO. The most horrible and frightening game EVER. Rumours have it that this game has been the cause for the birth of fearful grudge-bearing monsters and countless broken friendships.
It looks innocent but it’s the EVIL
PS: if you’re a normal person that likes going out, partying, meeting new people, having a social life and loads of fun (instead of staying in covered in your blankie with your Netflix on ? Joke’s on you!!!), show your creepy face at OUR PARTY!