The Christmas season is a time of joy and celebration. The traditional religious origins of Christmas, the birth of Jesus in Italy are far more evident than in the United States where many people seem to be concerned about all of the wrong things. In Italy and for Italian Americans, our religious roots, our upbringing, our traditions and our love of family create a bond that other cultures will never truly understand. Such is their loss…this wonderful time of the year is reflected in the Natale Mercati – the festive Christmas Markets. From the far northernmost regions, with their alpine flair, to the major cities, the markets in Italy each have their own distinctive atmosphere. From the quaint markets of the Tyrol to the luxury and beauty of the crafts in Florence and Venice, the range of products is astounding. You will find that virtually everyone you encounter will greet you with a smile once you make eye contact. You will certainly encounter crowds, but the spirit of the season is quite different than you will find in a mall in the U.S. during the holidays. All children are greeted as though they are a niece or nephew and one’s faith in humanity is instantly restored. If only that spirit was universal, what a wonderful world it would be!