Italian Christmas Traditions – Christmas in Merano – Dream Destination
A fairytale scene, the streets are white with snow. The Dolomite Mountains tower high into the evening sky. Cedar shingled shops with high pointed roofs line the path that disappears into a goose down comforter. We try to catch on our tongue the quarter size crystals falling from the sky, scuffling our boots in the newly fallen snow. White lights twinkle above our heads, reflecting, blinking. It becomes difficult to tell the difference between the snow falling and the Christmas lights forming patterns of stars, snowflakes and Santa Claus. It is somehow dark of night and bright as midday at the same time.
The shops shine from their windows colors of red and gold. Evergreen branches adorn the doors and windows. A wood carved totem of Santa Claus here and the Toy Soldier of the Nutcracker Suite there. People scurry, packages with brightly colored paper and hand tied silk bows in their hands. Music plays in the background muffled by the snow and the perfume of sweet holiday bread fills overwhelms. My nose is cold, Raffaella’s cheeks are bright red yet we continue down the street humming sometimes outright singing the Christmas songs. No one seems to mind or for that matter notice. The air is festive.
Every few steps, we stop, and gaze at the marvels displayed in the windows. Just ahead the Christmas Fair, sixty or so artisan stands of fresh bread, dried meats and cheeses. The brass band plays, accompanied by the local choir, songs of Christmas and the church bells chime, some on the hour, others on the half. If Christmas had a smell, this would be it. The scent of pine on the wind, the fresh smell of snow renewing continuously, fresh bread baking, Vin Brule’ in a cup, and hand carved candles burning. Look across the street, it is the post office of Santa Claus.
Every year the city of Merano in South Tyrol hosts a Christmas Fair during the entire month of December. Local artisans sell their handmade Christmas candles and woodcarvings. The local meats and cheeses are some of the main attractions. Bakers move their wood burning ovens into the streets and fill the air with a constant and pervasive perfume of fresh baked breads. The Christmas fair in Merano is not your typical Italian destination. It is the mountainous Italy where the local dialect is more Austrian than Italian but this is Italy. It is tradition. It is an important part of the rich cultures accumulated over the centuries, mixing and blending. It is Christmas.
Take your heavy coat and a good appetite. Plan a week, perhaps with some cross country skiing or hiking. Bring your love for wine, this is home to the International Wine Festival. Bring your loved one and most of all, bring your inner child, that part of you that wants to skip down the street, make snow angels, sing Christmas carols, eat until you cannot move any more and revel in the fascination of Christmas.
Tags: Winter Holidays Merano
Holiday Traditions Italian Holidays Christmas Traditions Food and Wine Travel Italy