Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chiuso per Natale

The above sign notes that the establishment is closed for summer break (Chiuso per ferie) and will return Aug. 15.

Institutionalized holidays are necessary for the mental and physical health of any society. Whether religious, historical or national in origin, I believe that an imposed "day of rest" is necessary every once in a while. By this point I think it is indisputable that Americans have an obsession with work. Our "open 24-hour, all work no play" culture is not only addictive but is also contagious.

When I lived in Bologna, Italy, I was at first frustrated by the fact that on seemingly random days and times of the week or of the year all shops would be closed - Thursday afternoons, Sundays, everyday between 1 and 3, and of course July and August for about an entire month.

I remember running out to get an important pharmaceutical item on a Thursday only to find that the pharmacy was closed. Erg. That was frustrating. But after a little bit of acculturation, I realized that this was in fact a blessing in disguise and Italians have it right after all.

In Italy, people are not afraid to rest. Rest is in fact, institutionalized. And the fact that everyone complies with this understanding enforces a culture not of workaholics but of people who know how to enjoy life. Why shouldn't everyone shut down their shop/office for a month in the summer? It is too hot to work anyway, so let's all go to the beach!

It is refreshing to see; and this week when the intersection by my house (a bus line hub) was fully quiet, I felt nervous but then refreshed to discover that Christmas is probably the only day in the year when everything in urban America really shuts down. All other holidays, Sundays, etc have become potential work days for anyone. We could certainly learn from the Italians in many ways, if only we could force mega-chain stores to close every once in a while! Perhaps we could begin to resist the insane culture promoted by over-caffeinated capitalists~


SB said...

While I agree on the general point, I am not sure that the adjective over-caffeinated separates Italians from capitalists.

eloise said...

point taken.

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