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AROUND NAPOLI
What to do over
the Christmas Holidays
I have received a few notes from people who will be in Naples over the Christmas holidays. They ask about things to do, places to go, music to hear, where to eat, etc. "What do Neapolitans do?" asked one such enquiry.

Well, if you happen to be in Naples only on the 24th and 25th and wander around looking for things to do, you may be disappointed. Those two days are perhaps the greatest stay-at-home days of the year. Neapolitans stay at home and eat, and unless you can manage to wrangle yourself an invitation, you will be lonely.

On the other hand, if you are willing to look a bit before and after those dates, there are a few items of interest. Many places in Naples will have a typical "presepe"--Nativity Scene--on display over the holidays (including, obviously, the 24th and 25th, so the situation is not all that bleak). Among these are some of the major churches in the city:

--church of Santa Chiara
--church of Santa Maria in Portico
--church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi
--church of Santa Maria del Parto
--church of San Domenico Maggiore
--church of San Gregorio Armeno

Also, the Church of San Severo a Pendino on via Duomo will have a special exhibition of "Presepe Art". Then, you can have a look along via San Gregorio Armeno. This is the main Christmas street in Naples. Shops featuring handcrafted Nativity Scenes line both sides of the street. Don't forget the Presepe display at the San Martino museum where the finest such exhibit in the world is on permanent display.

A word about these exhibits. As you walk along, say, via San Gregorio Armeno, you will no doubt be acutely aware of the globalized secularization of the holiday that has taken place over the last generation. Santa Claus is everywhere, as are awful versions of "Jingle Bells". The local papers have been lamenting how much all this has affected local traditions. It now seems that more than 60% of Italian school children now associate Christmas more with Santa Claus than with the traditional presepe. About one-fourth of children can no longer identify the main characters in the tableau. (Presumably, they know who the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph are. Perhaps they are shaky on the names of the Three Wise Men. (Traditionally, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, but I had to look it up, so let's not be too harsh on the kids.) In any event, the displays in churches are the best ones to give you an idea of this most characteristic of Neapolitan Christmas traditions. It is well worth the time to see more than one of them since they may vary considerably.

MUSIC

This is a list of some of the musical events in Naples over the Christmas holidays.

Dec. 20 --a choral mass in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore, time: 8.30 pm.

Dec. 20 --concert, International Orchestra of Italy, at the Teatro Sannazaro, time: 9 pm. details: fondazionenapoletano@fastweb.it

Dec. 21 (9 pm) & 22 (6 pm) --Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, at San Carlo, Info at: www.teatrosancarlo.it

Dec. 21 --advertised only as "Christmas Concert", at the Gambrinus Caff in Piazza Plebiscito. No time listed.

Dec. 21 --classical Neapolitan Song & Poetry, in the Galleria Umberto, time: 6.30 pm.

Dec. 21 --the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra, in the basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, time: 9 pm. Info at: www.napoli.com/assocscarlatti

Dec. 23 --Tales & Music for Christmas, concerto for voices and instruments, at church of SS. Filippo e Giacomo, via San Biagio dei Librai 18, time: 7 pm. Info at: www.giannilamagna.com or email dimusica@libero.it

Dec. 28 --Ensemble Vocale di Napoli, music of Gesualdo da Venosa, at the Capodimonte museum, time: 8 pm. Info at: www.napoli.com/assocscarlatti

Dec. 28 (9 pm) & 30 (6 pm)--vocal recital, Juan Diego Florez, tenor. Music of Beethoven, Bellini, Tosti, Donizetti, at San Caro. Info at: www.teatrosancarlo.it

Dec. 30 -- outdoor choral concert in Piazza del Ges Nuovo. No time listed.

If you are truly at loose ends, you can wander over to the Galleria Umberto across from San Carlo and practice your Italian by reading the notes on the "wishing tree," the Christmas tree set up on the ground concourse, and already a traditional target for those wanting to leave notes for "Babbo Natale"--Father Christmas--and Ges Bambino, the Christ Child.
15/12/2004