By their Christmas decorations shall ye know them?
Italy may be collapsing, but -- so far as I have seen in the last week -- it doesn't actually look as if it is collapsing quite as much as the UK does. I am sure that there must be areas of Italy where every other shop on the High St is a charity shop (if not boarded up). But that's not obviously true of the centre of Rome, nor of the very non-touristy area where I am staying (the Viale Marconi) -- nor, for that matter, of the rather grim Ponte di Nona suburb, where I have been today (no shortage of thriving strip-malls there as we discovered).
It feels as if Italy as a country may be bankrupt, but that a lot of Italians are doing very nicely thank you.
And the whole place seems more covered with neon Christmas decorations than I have ever seen it before. And there seem to be more poinsettias than you can even find in New York (where on earth does this poinsettia custom come from?).
Some are reasonably tasteful, like -- I suppose -- the angels on the way up to the Campidoglio (at te top of this post), or the vast tree outside the Colosseum (a gift from Norway?). Others are either frankly horrible (like the neon crib, including camel, in the Piazza Venezia), or merely vulgar (like the Mercedes-sponsored lights near the Spanish Steps).
You only occasionally get a glimpse of the much more traditional Christmas kitsch, like the crib balancing on a heater at the back entrance to the Terme Museum, where we were filming yesterday.
I guess someome must already have done a PhD on the globalization of Christmas and its decorations. But I realise that I haven't really got much of a clue where it all comes from, after Prince Albert brought us the tree and the Christmas card.
So where did Italy get the tree from? From Germany by a different route? Or did it have them already? And when did every provincial town in Britain start stringing the neon kitsch across its streets to celebrate the holiday? And when did they start simply leaving the damn things up most of the year -- and just switching them on from sometime im November. And when did people in the UK start putting shiny bambis in their gardens, or climbing Santas up their drainpipes (havent seen any of those here).
I'm sure I don't remember any of that in the 1960s... and, compared with the time-expired municipal brand, I think I might even prefer something new, seasonal and sponsored by Mercedes Benz.