17 December 2009

did you know...?

As some of you may know, in my other part time job I teach English. I came late to teaching and found it to be surprisingly really rather satisfying and not the nerve-wracking experience I always imagined it would be. My first ever lesson was of course Hell but now, 3 and a half years later, I'm more confident than the most confident person in Confidencetown (to use my iconic sister-in-law's expression), when it comes to explaining the ins and outs of irregular verbs and pronunciation. I've developed such a passion for grammar and especially pronunciation that I even bore myself with it sometimes, not to mention my sons and husband.  So today I bring you a tale only marginally related to teaching (you'll be pleased to know) and mainly about Christmas and Italian men. Phwoar, you'll say. Well yes, I guess.
I have a wonderful little group of learners, I affectionately refer to them as "my pathology lot", whom I teach English once a week. They're all Italian doctors and work in the local pathology department. Really fascinating stuff and a charming bunch of people. No, really.
During today's lesson, and as it's our last before the festive season gets well and truly under way, we had a lively discussion about Christmas and what the UK traditions might be as opposed to the Italian ones. As I may as well be British, I of course feel that there's no better Christmas than an English one but I was very keen to learn how the Italians went about it.  From their explanation it seems that it's maybe a little bit more low-key than ours, not so much singing and drinking and not a lot of emphasis on obscene amounts of presents as in other parts of the world. As part of our discussion I asked them if they could give me 3 words that for them, define Christmas. All were unanimous in their nominations apart from the words "Christmas tree" (for the females) and "Nativity" (for the males). There was this very odd but very clear divide. The gals loved a tree, and the blokes were all for a Nativity scene. One of the male doctors patiently  proceeded to explain that in Italy, "men do the Nativity" and "women do the tree". He then very seriously continued and told me that baby Jesus is only placed in the crib on the 24th and that the 3 wise men don't appear till the 6th day of January (they are in fact gradually moved along - by the man - as the days go by, I kid you not).  I cannot imagine that every Italian male carries out this particular ritual with the same passion or dedication as my pupils tried to make me believe, but I was assured that generally the scenes are meticulously planned out, constructed, installed and lit and watered ("there are real fountains with real water and moss is gathered, and stars illuminate the sky and..." I listened enraptured...) not by the women but by the men. Back home I researched pictures of Nativity scenes from the UK and compared them to their Italian counterparts and must say that when it comes to creating a religious scene, the Italians obviously have an elevated ambition and passion in this department. Not for them the minimal, wooden purist set.
Having always placed Italian men in either an Al Pacino type category or a Giorgio Armani-ish one, I was a bit puzzled with this new aspect of the Italo male. What now? It's endearing for sure, but is it sexy? I've concluded that it is, because somewhere inside my head I really can picture Al on his knees, carefully arranging the hay in the second stable ready for the ox and donkey. Ok, that's where I'm gonna leave it for today.


dutchwomanabroad said...

great piece!

Anonymous said...

....maybe its a tradition going all the back to Leonardo..a nation of artistic geniuses (or is it genii, Mrs English Teacher?)

Anonymous said...

Really a nice informative and sweet piece about an Italian Christmas. Your style is like a light and easy-flowing music arrangement put into words.

AZ girl - cindy

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