Christmas is a very busy time of year for us here in Rome. There are concerts to go to, the Midnight Mass at the Vatican, shopping to be done, and in the spare time there’s homework. However, I think it’s also the most beautiful time here in Rome. Granted, there’s no snow, but there are Nativity scenes and Christmas lights.
The streets are probably the prettiest part of the Christmas scene. They are all decked out in hanging lights, and the shopkeepers decorate their storefronts. Combine Christmas lights with centuries old buildings and you’ve got a very picturesque scene. What’s wonderful about all this is that Christmas here is not commercialized. You get the feeling that those people aren’t hanging up Christmas decorations to sell you something from their store, but just because they want to and enjoy doing it. They want to add to the beauty that is surrounding them and get in the spirit of Christmas.
Another unique tradition is how every church and almost every shop has a Nativity scene. Street vendors are selling pieces for Nativity scenes, churches have incredibly complex scenes set up, and the Vatican builds a huge life-size one in St. Peter’s square. It’s fun to explore the different churches just to check out their Nativities.
Christmas itself was a wonderful day. We went to Midnight Mass at the Vatican, which is one of the biggest Masses celebrated yearly at the Vatican. The line to get into St. Peter’s wound around twice in the square. There were so many people waiting that many were not able to make it into the Vatican because they ran out of seating. However, thankfully everyone in our group got in all right. It was a very memorable and beautiful Mass, especially since Anycia, one of our girls, was asked to do the English readings for Mass! We were all very excited to see her up on the altar.
On Christmas day Fr. Cozzens, from St. Paul, who is here to defend his doctoral thesis, said Mass for us, and afterwards we ate a wonderful homemade Christmas dinner prepared by Dr. Martens and his wife Tabitha. We spent the whole day having fun together, playing games and watching movies. It was a very memorable day, and a blessing to be able to spend it with our Bernardi family.
Now that Christmas is over, everyone has left on a trip to Italy or beyond. In a few days I will leave for Salzburg and Vienna, Austria. I am excited to see these famous cities, the mountains, and the snow! And at the end of it all, I will have my Bernardi family to return to.