|If left up long enough Christmas lights become Carnevale lights|
Among the nice things about Christmas in Venice is that seasonal decorations for it don't go up too early or stay up too long. Or at least they didn't use to.
Most local businesses and residents typically don't put up their Christmas lights and decorations until the Feast of the Annunciation (8 December) and they take them down after the Feast of the Epiphany (6 January).
This is a marked difference from America, where Christmas decorations seem to go up ever earlier and are prone to appear while kids are still eating their Halloween candy. Of course foreign-owned and foreign-influenced businesses tend to follow the American Christmas merchandising calendar. It seems the new duty-free mall at the foot of the Rialto in the historic Fondaco dei Tedeschi site had Christmas trees up before Venetians even had the chance to celebrate their big local holiday of the Festa della Salute on 21 November. But, then, that mall, as the CEO of DFS (the Hong Kong-based duty-free chain which occupies the Fondaco) admits, is oriented toward Asian tourists.
However, while the city's Christmas lights didn't go up any earlier than usual this year, they've been kept up far longer than before. All the way through Carnevale is the plan--in spite of questions about whether a city so lacking in funds should really be extending their big Christmas electrical bill.
As much as I may like Christmas decorations when they first start appearing in early December here, I'm happy to see them vanish after the Epiphany. For decorative traditions are one way that a community marks its shared sense of the passage of time, of seasons. One way in which a community orients itself in time. The new year--as opposed to the New Year holiday--really seems to get underway once those decorations have been taken down. After the lull of the holiday, during which activity seems to be both heightened and arrested, gives way once again to what seems more like the normal (and now newly welcome) flow of time.
At least that how it's seemed to me in previous years here. This year the city's leaders (marketers, may be a more accurate term) chose to sacrifice this traditional sense of communal time to--you guessed it--what they decided were the needs of the mass tourist spectacle that is Carnevale. So that the very same strands of public lights that may strike a visitor to Carnevale as festive and fun and spirited are, at least to me in my darker moods, yet another sign of a city whose actual (and faint) local life--like the life of its lagoon--has been abandoned by those whose primary responsibility should be to protect and strengthen it.