Finding family at Christmas

Family in Naples

During this time of festive cheer, ridiculously bright jumpers and overcrowded shops, it’s easy to get lost in the consumerist fog that we now know as Christmas. People battle it out for the most needlessly expensive present, and the keeping-up-with-the-jones attitude has forced many people to feel alone and a deeply depressed. So, why do we do it to ourselves every year? Well one thing I was always taught from a young age is Christmas means one thing, and one thing only ‘family.’

It’s rare for me to write something about myself, as far as I’m concerned Travel Antics is a place to celebrate the people of the world, from the small fisherman in Vietnam who stood and fought next to Ho Ch Minh, to the girl in the jeans who just had a really great day. I personally believe these are the people who deserve some recognition too. But, there is something I wanted to share, something somewhat personal.

This year has been devastating, not only because of the deaths of some beloved heroes like David Bowie and Alan Rickman, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump but at the start of the year, I went through a particularly bad breakdown. I refused to eat and I felt as though my mind was slowly destroying itself. It’s something many of us have faced at one time or another, whether you’re a self-proclaimed traveller or not. I spent the year picking myself up and dusting myself off and during this time I took a trip to Italy. It may come as no surprise to learn the name Capuano doesn’t actually originate from the UK. In fact, a whole section of my family, on my Father’s side still live in Naples.

At first, I was nervous about meeting them. I hadn’t seen these people since I was 8 months old and apart from fleeting contact on Facebook, I barely knew their names. Also, they don’t speak English and my Italian is poor at best. I thought this visit would involve long, awkward silences, not quite knowing what to do or say. I thought they’d feel just as nervous around me as I would around them. However, this wasn’t the case, from the moment I walked through the doors of their house I was pulled into hugs, kissed on the cheek and welcomed with open arms. Throughout the week this welcoming nature intensified, Aunties, cousins, Uncles, Grandparents each one made it their personal mission to get to know me, language barrier or no. Money, gifts, delicious food and a tour around old Naples by night, whatever they thought we’d like they went out of their way to provide.

My Dad, who had spent a significant portion of his childhood in Naples, showed me rooms where he and his cousins slept in the same room. Beds and mattresses pulled onto the floor, as the family slept in the same room and even though he hadn’t seen these people in years, it was as if no time had passed.

These interactions may be commonplace in Italy, but to me, it was a very different experience. And at that time of year when loneliness and depression are rife, it’s comforting to know, in an apartment in Naples a group of people love me because I’m family. So, in the words of the legendary Doctor Seuss “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store; maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little more.” Maybe it just means taking care of the people who mean the world to you.

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