A Quiet Christmas in Ascoli

After a summer virtually free of virus concerns, the number of people contracting Covid-19 began increasing in October, reaching scary high levels a few week later. Things started to improve after a lockdown of a few weeks, but to avoid retriggering a new wave over the holidays, the government is imposing a nationwide “red zone” starting December 24 and continuing for most days through January 7. Virtually everything other than stores selling groceries and pharmaceuticals will be closed – no bars, no stores, no restaurants will be open, although you can order food to go. No one can leave their town, except for a very limited number of reasons. Trips outside are limited to essential items. You can take walks for exercise, but not too far from home.

Local officials have made clear that Babbo Natale has been cleared for flight operations and, wearing a mask and keeping his social distance, will be delivering Christmas gifts to those who believe in him and even those who don’t. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve will start at 7:30 pm, to allow everyone to get home by curfew.

Our local fish store is assembling for us the raw ingredients for a traditional “brodetto” (fish stew) for Christmas Eve dinner, complete with his mother’s recipe. The local restaurant where we had hoped to have Christmas lunch is instead creating a holiday meal to go.

Of course, it being Christmas, one cannot forget the panettone (soon to be fully eaten).

And, while there is no Christmas market this year, and no ice skating rink in Piazza Arringo, the town put up its full complement of Christmas lights.

So while it’s a quiet Christmas, it won’t be lacking in Christmas spirit. Maybe that sense of community in sharing a common hardship really IS Christmas spirit.

We can be thankful that nobody close to us has been badly affected by the virus. No one we know has died or been hospitalized, and the small number of people who have tested positive seem to have made full recoveries. Considering the death and hardship that has visited so many this year, we are indeed fortunate.

Now all we can do is wait for the vaccine. The first (tiny) shipment of vaccines in our region is scheduled to arrive next week. The first doses will go to health care providers, people in care homes, and those over 80. After that, folks over 60 (like us) and those younger but with special risk factors will be able to get vaccinated.

The Italian government has never been known for its efficiency. But they have had good communications around vaccine delivery, and they seem to have a plan. So we are cautiously optimistic.

Can’t wait to start traveling again, although these days even a trip to the beach seems like an exotic journey.

Best wishes to you and yours, and let’s all hope for a better 2021.