Skibbereen’s Emer Downing is spending her first Christmas in Italy, due to Covid-19, but still feels connected to West Cork, especially thanks to a surprise package containing her favourite treats!
WELLIES on, ankle deep in Tragumna’s ice cold water, phone at the ready to record The Southern Star’s live stream of the Christmas Swim.
A few nods and chats with people I haven’t seen in a year and then back home to help dish up the turkey and ham. That’s how my Christmas Day normally looks.
This year, however, I’ll be having quite a different experience in my adopted home in Bergamo, Italy.
Due to the pandemic, I’ve made the heartbreaking decision to stay in Bergamo for my first ever Christmas away from home.
Already, in the lead-up to Christmas, I’ve felt such a connection to home. My jaw dropped one lunch hour at work when a package arrived from my parents with a ‘Field’s of Skibbereen’ sticker on it.
They had sent me over a hamper of local produce to enjoy, including the Christmas ham. Words can’t describe how excited I am to have a loaf of Field’s bread in the freezer for turkey sandwiches.
The Irish community at the school where I work has been passing selection boxes and bags of Taytos to one another. Nothing beats a taste of home when you’re abroad. Technology has helped to bridge the distance.
While watching the Late Late Toy Show in real time, two of my cousins and I had a video chat from Dublin, Australia and Italy.
I have been able to shop online and buy some gifts from West Cork producers to send to friends. I’ve treated myself to a Ballymaloe Christmas giftpack, too.
I will make use of technology to subject my family to a virtual pub quiz and have a Christmas toast by video chat. My brother and I have a tradition of doing the RTÉ Guide crossword together so he has promised to send on a photograph of it during the holidays.
Of course Christmas in Bergamo is not the same this year without the usual Christmas markets. She is looking very well regardless, all decked out in twinkling lights.
Italians don’t have one particular Christmas meal like us. There could be anything on the table from lasagna or ravioli as a first course to polenta and rabbit or braised beef as a second. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to order a whole turkey – something incredibly rare here. If guidelines allow, we’ll have my in-laws over for Christmas lunch.
Either way, I’m excited to spend my first Christmas in Italy with my new husband.
Tears have been shed and no doubt there will be more as the big day approaches but my mantra this year has been to make the most of what you can do.
So, to all of you fellow West Corkonians at home and around the world this Christmas, acknowledge the people and things you’re missing but appreciate what you do have and make this season special nonetheless.
Buone Feste agus Nollaig Shona daoibh go léir!