Less shopping, more ‘spiritual reflection’: What will Christmas be like in Italy this year?

Less shopping, more ‘spiritual reflection’: What will Christmas be like in Italy this year?
A shopper browses Christmas gifts and decorations in Rome, where shops are still open under current rules. Photo: AFP
Christmas is set to look very different in Italy this year. Here's what we know so far about what is and isn't allowed, or recommended.
Italy’s Prime Minister has reassured children that gifts will be delivered as usual in 2020 as Babbo Natale, or Father Christmas, won’t face any coronavirus travel restrictions.
The rest of us however are likely to have to stay where we are.
It’s not certain exactly what rules will be in place by the end of December, as Italy’s current set of measures enforced under the latest emergency decree is only valid until December 3rd.
Four emergency decrees have been issued within the past month, as the rules are continually updated.
So far, Christmas markets have been banned, and ministers say the big family Christmas dinner (cenone, literally meaning “big dinner”) will be a no-go this year.
Christmas lights at Piazza Venezia in Rome, 2019. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
It would be best for people to spend Christmas only in the company of their “closest family members”, Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia told La7 television on Thursday.
And while PM Giuseppe Conte was quick to reassure children that they’d still get Christmas presents, he also reminded the public that Christmas is “not only associated with shopping, presents and boosting the economy.”
He warned on Friday against people gathering to shop and celebrate, saying Christmas should be a “spiritual” time.
“We will consider the epidemiological curve that we'll have in December,” said the premier. “Christmas, whatever your religious faith, is certainly also a moment of private spiritual worship.”
He said it’s no good to “do private spiritual reflection with a lot of other people”.
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Shopping for gifts and non-essential items is currently only allowed in regions designated “yellow” and “orange” risk zones, under a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions.
In red zones, where most shops and businesses are closed, only online shopping is possible.
The government reportedly aims to reopen shops across the country closer to the Christmas holidays. However, this will depend on whether it is able to get the coronavirus situation under control by then.
Non-essential travel between regions and towns is tightly restricted for people in red and orange zones, meaning travelling to visit friends and family this year looks unlikely to be allowed.
Conte stressed on Wednesday that he wants to avoid putting the country under a second nationwide lockdown.
Several types of restrictions have been imposed nationwide and at a local level, depending on the health situation in different regions.
But a growing number of medical workers and politicians are calling for stricter measures, and even a second nationwide lockdown.
Before bringing in further measures, Conte said the government is waiting to see whether or not current restrictions are having an impact on the contagion curve.
Italy, the first European country hit by coronavirus earlier this year, has recorded a surge in cases in recent weeks and has topped one million infections in total.

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