In my small village of Bari, southern Italy, there is never any snow for Christmas. Usually, the sky is blue over the ocean and the weather is fairly warm.
My Christmas starts on the morning of the 24th of December when everybody is out on the streets for some last minute Christmas shopping, to meet old friends or have a drink before the Christmas dinner. It's those moments that I love about the festive season because all the small streets of the city centre are filled with a magical and happy atmosphere.
According to tradition, meat is not allowed on the dinner table on the 24th. That's why the whole meal that night consists only of fish and vegetables. My whole family meets in my grandmother's house around 6:30pm - and you have to be there on time: Everybody has to be seated by 7, something that is extremely rare in the south of Italy where people usually don't eat before 8:30!
After dinner, everybody waits for midnight to arrive to finally open the presents in front of a huge Christmas tree. My grandmother always urges us to go to church but it has been a very long time since I've attended mass. After midnight we go out to meet friends, celebrate or play 'tombola' (a bingo-like game) until dawn.
On the 25th and 26th of December, the eating continues with big dinners or lunches where meat is now allowed. We spend the afternoons with family and friends, eating Panettone and Christmas cake and playing cards.
For me, Christmas means family time... so it's a good thing it exists!
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