December festivities make a comeback for the better
A school year at ISF
December 2, 2021 – 10:51 AM
The December break marks the start of Tuscany’s festive holiday season, accompanied by an assortment of unique Florentine landmarks and traditions. Lights, street markets and various events all contribute to the encapsulated joy emitted on a Christmas in Florence. In this month of December, the city finds more than the mere enjoyment of another year of vacation; our festivities represent the return of community solidarity, a sorely missed feeling that arguably transcends pretty holiday decorations into a reservoir of limitless happiness.
Around the same time last year, the movement of the Tuscan community was hampered by its status as an “orange” zone, where people were confined to their municipalities, the area’s 10pm curfew and the lack of total seating experiences in restaurants and cafes. Pedestrian traffic in the streets was rare and tourism practically non-existent. Despite the city’s variety of restrictions, Florence’s Christmas lights still lit the streets. Back then, lights were a symbol of hope, a necessity that could shine when Florentines needed it most. However, last year after their installation, I walked an embellished via Tornabuoni and found that its decorations were suffocated by a missing central element: the spectators, even the devotees, who in any normal season flooded these streets. Fortunately, this year the notorious city lights can be used to speed up a surrounding Christmas fellowship rather than holding everything on its shoulders. For, without its crowds of people filling the streets, beaming with ever more intense anticipation, December in Florence is not complete.
This year the holiday season can reach its full potential. With a full range of markets and events to contribute to the annual lights, all members of the Tuscan community and beyond can flood the streets and experience the full offerings of a Florentine December. This season, some of Florence’s many landmark annual festivities have already started. One of those founding traditions of this holiday season is the return of the well-established tradition Santa Croce market. The German Christmas market, the Weihnachtsmarkt, is back until December 20.
Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. Ph. @Alessiochao
The market has been an annual tradition for 20 years in Florence (with the exception of 2020, for obvious reasons), with more than 50 wooden stalls that display a wide variety of products. Encompassing cultures from all over Europe, the market represents hearty cuisine from all origins. Just walking 15-20 seconds through this small village of wooden stalls, you can find anything from a Bratwurst, a pork sandwich and roasted potatoes to an Austrian broken (which in my opinion is the equivalent of a pretzel shaped donut). The assortments are endless; for those with a sweet tooth, the stands entirely devoted to pastries, churros, Dutch waffles or chocolate should satisfy these cravings. Another possible try are the Kürtőskalács, or chimney cakes, which can be covered with any filling, including, but not limited to, chocolate and cinnamon. If the blazing winds of a harsh December evening get the most out of your winter coat, a hot drink like mulled wine or hot chocolate can warm you up indefinitely. Beyond the endless possibilities for food and drink, the market also contains various stalls of local artisans who bring their own twists to the market. They have unique treats for the bottom of the family, with several vendors offering everything from beautifully designed ornaments and votive candles to stuffed animals and toys. A wide variety of ceramic housewares are offered on English stalls, where you can even buy incredible lemon curd or fruit mince. The mix of products from the stands offers a fixation on the otherwise invisible; it gives each person the opportunity to enjoy small foods and trinkets that are completely unique to the market in which they are found. It also has a full calendar of events for that month with special attention to entertainment for children. They’ll have games, live music, and even a Santa Claus house for the kids. The Weihnachtsmarkt acts as an eclectic culture bubble only seen in Florence in December. After his previous absence, there is no doubt that the market will shine brighter than ever.
The return of many Christmas traditions to Florence, surprisingly enough, also marks serious economic changes. This holiday season, according to a study by Codacons, the risks become the most expensive in recent years and could cost Italy nearly 1.4 billion euros more than before the pandemic. For example, bakery companies have estimated that the cost of panettones could increase by 20% this year. They even made a cautious prediction that Italian families will spend around 100 million euros more than in 2019, before the pandemic.
Although more expensive, this Christmas season marks the return of the crowds, tourism and even restaurants that the city sorely missed last year. Through long-standing traditions like the Santa Croce Market, members of the town’s community take solace in return for a partially masked normalcy during this year’s cherished festivities.
This article was written by Jack Bach, student at the International School of Florence.