Women’s Day…Italian Style

“Our Nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.” – Blaise Pascal

At 7:45 PM, the sala looked like a group of 3rd graders had just finished an art project.  Bits and pieces of cardboard, paper, and colored garbage bags created a haphazard mosaic on the tables.  Scissors and pencils lay buried, or forgotten where they had fallen on the floor.  The artists huddled around the lone ball of string that had been brought out, cutting lengths that they hoped were long enough to wrap around their heads and secure their respective masks in place.  At 7:59, twenty-four college students walked out the door, masked, ready for the women’s day karaoke that our restaurant had planned for us that evening.

Little did I know that the first time I would ever experience anything close to going to a dance—outside of camp dance parties—would be in Italy.  But I guess Italian’s like to be spontaneous and take their holidays seriously, so dinner with a little karaoke can easily turn in a dance party.

Women’s day honestly started out kind of like a joke in my mind.  I viewed it as another Valentine’s Day that you would see in the states—people either ignore it, scorn it, or go way overboard with it.  But I guess the holiday is all in how you respond to it, and the two boys in our groups of 24 set the tone well.  Leading up to Tuesday, us twenty-two girls in the group put mild, humorous pressure on the boys for having to do something for us on women’s day.  I didn’t think they’d take it seriously, so I definitely wasn’t expecting the cards and gatherings of mimosa flowers outside all of our doors Tuesday morning…or the candy that was brought out at chapter meeting.  The standard had been set, but I still wasn’t expecting the karaoke with dinner to be as extravagant.  When our professor told us that we were welcome to bring masks to karaoke night, although we were not required to do so.  Yeah right, I thought…I had reading to do instead.

And yet, at 7:30, I found myself with the rest of the group, scrounging up materials from around the monastery and throwing them together on a hand-drawn mask.  I may not be an art major, but I haven’t spent four years teaching craft classes to girls during the summer for nothing.  I feel like we should have won awards for the way we transformed garbage bags and napkins into elaborate-looking masks.  Who needs expensive supplies from AC Moore when you can use garbage?

Mauro, our host at our restaurant, was delighted that we got so into the idea of making masks.  When we reached the restaurant, it was modestly decorated, and he sat there playing the accordion and singing.  Italians are versatile people.  I was ecstatic to find out that we were having pizza again—this time finished with a Nutella pizza at the end.  Part was through dinner, English songs started popping up on the karaoke machine, and then suddenly we were dancing the Macarena.  Before we knew it, the Italians who were in the restaurant weren’t just staring at us laughing, but were actually joining in.

And that was a women’s day in Italy.  Italians really do take their holidays seriously.  My guess is that part of that comes with the deeply rooted traditions that accompany their religious holidays.  Or maybe it has to do with the fact that their holidays come from themselves and haven’t been taken over by Hallmark.

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