Introducing Alessandra, our 7th Guest poster for Xmas Series:
1, Introduce yourself, tell us about you, what you do, why did you start blogging?
Hello and thanks for having me here! I’m Alessandra. I am originally Italian from deep South, Cosenza Calabria, but been living in Switzerland for the past 11 years. I’m a blogger and a coach.
I started coaching many years ago. I had a full time job as an IT project manager and during my spare time I was volunteering (and I still am) for an international coaching association. This association helps women find their strength and voice again. Not any woman though. Only women who have a very heavy past, struggle in the present to find their way and don’t have the means to pay a coach. It’s easy to imagine that the coaching process with these women is somehow different from a regular process. Even though coaching is not therapy and I don’t (and can’t) help them elaborate the psychological traumas, they are still humans and inevitably bring their stories into the session.
Since I started volunteering, I’ve heard things that I only heard before in movies. The worst movies. It’s tough at times to remain distant and not get involved emotionally. These stories can be heartbreaking. On the other end, when these women manage to succeed (and they all do!) at whatever goal they have set for themselves, is amazing. I feel amazing. The reward is beyond imagination. They are the strongest example I have that life can start over again. That it can get better, no matter how dark it seems.
And at some point I realized that this is what I truly wanted for myself. Not just a “hobby”, but helping people for real. 100% of my time. Useless to say that it was scary. And that many people thought I was crazy. Leave a stable, well paid job for? What exactly? But the profound joy I felt in doing what I was doing was stronger than any “reasonable” argument against it so I took a leap of faith. Together with the coaching practice, I also started blogging. I did that for two main reasons: It’s a way to bring my knowledge to everyone out there. A way to help anybody who in a way or another reaches me, and reading and writing have been my passion since I could first make sense of letters 🙂
2. How do you spend Xmas day?
Generally in Calabria together with my family. For us Christmas’ eve is the most important day. More than the 25th, the 24th in the evening is when we celebrate, open presents and so on and so forth. It’s such a magical moment. We all live in different places and not always manage to meet there during the year but when Xmas comes, it’s imperative to go back home. On the 24th we wake up in the morning and already the atmosphere is amazing. We have breakfast and then go out shopping. There is always someone who hasn’t bought all the presents. Actually most of us buy the last presents on the 24th. It’s somehow nice. A sort of tradition. And you always end up meeting friends doing the same. It’s funny. Once the presents are completed we go back home for lunch and to hide the bags. Lunch is always a very light one. In my hometown the tradition wants a sort of salty doughnuts that are usually prepared at home. They can be rounded and plain like the doughnuts or look like a calzone but fried. These ones usually have tomato sauce and mozzarella or anchovy inside. Everyone grabs one or two and that’s it. In the early afternoon we all head out to meet friends for a Xmas coffee. We spend some time together, exchange wishes and little presents that everyone will bring back home and place under the Christmas tree. Then around 4/5pm everybody goes home to wrap the last presents and start preparing dinner. The Calabrian tradition wants that 13 different dishes are brought to the table for Eve’s dinner. So it requires some preparation 🙂 13 is a symbolic number. It’s the number of the apostles. And no meat! That’s a religious one. No meat the whole day. We eat meat on the 25th but not on the 24th so the dinner is fish based. In my hometown there is one special tradition. Different from the rest of the region and Italy as well. We open the presents and exchange wishes at 9pm right before having dinner. I guess it’s because at midnight we go to mess and the kids cannot not wait till morning to open the presents.
This year the whole family will spend Christmas in Zurich. Only few times before we have done that. And I have to say it’s quite special too. We try to keep our own tradition for what’s possible, but we also try to enjoy the Swiss one which is clearly different. It’s nice to have a sort of Christmas fusion 🙂
Here they have a lot of Christmas markets and usually Christmas is the way you see it in the movies. With snow, many lights, gluehwein. Only Santa Claus is missing! For somebody coming from South where the temperature outside sometimes can be about 24 degrees, it’s really like in the movies!
3. Best money saving tip for Xmas?
DIY! I love preparing presents myself. I buy one small present and then put it in a box with candies, pandoro and other delicious italian goodies. And the wrap! I always buy a plain paper and I draw stuff on it myself. It’s pretty much fun!
4. What present would you love to receive if money was no object?
I don’t know. For me the biggest present has always been having this day with my family. All together and all healthy and happy.
5. Breakfast on Xmas morning usually consists of?
Well, with 13 dishes on the table for Xmas’ Eve and a another huge meal prepared for Xmas lunch, we don’t happen to be very hungry at breakfast 😀
6. Do you do anything special on Xmas Eve to celebrate?
7. Favourite Xmas song and why?
All I want for Christmas is you. I have an older sister and when I was a kid she would play it all day long. Now it’s our Xmas soundtrack together with Last Christmas and many others.
8. Favourite festive film?
The holiday. I also watching during the year. I simply love it 🙂
9. Who do you spend Xmas with?
Family and friends. Christmas in Italy and especially in Southern Italy is a period of time that starts on the 8th of December (which is the first religious festivity) and it ends with the epiphany of the 6th of January. It’s a full month of celebration.
10. What does Christmas mean to you? Do you think we have lost the original meaning?
Yes, we did lose the original meaning. It’s now pretty much a commercial thing. While the true meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with commercial. At least for catholics, it has a meaning that goes beyond buying presents. But do I disagree with this evolvement? Not entirely. It’s nice to be able to breath Christmas. To feel it in the air and taste the joy that comes with it. It is a joyful moment. But we should maybe not forget that is also a moment for unity and reflection.