Saturday, January 9, 2010

Welcome to the World of Holiday Cleaning

In Italy, just about the whole country goes on holiday for two full weeks between Christmas and the Epiphany. The kids are elated they don't have school and the adults are happy to catch up on sleep, eat and drink a lot, ski and maybe get some travelling in during the vacation dates they carve out for the themselves.

It is a time that signifies family and reunion. Many of the Italian families gather in large extended clans over a big dinner table for Christmas Day, Eve or Saint Stephen's Day, 26 December. It has the feeling of Thanksgiving with the added element of Jesus Christ's arrival, Santa Claus' gift delivery service and ends with a witch, the Befana, being burned over a bonfire.

However there is another aspect to this holiday season that I would like to mention: the fact that the house help goes on holiday, too. My middle-aged clients and friends were complaining about how much "work" they had while not strictly working. What do they mean? These women did what their paid service normally accomplishes during the rest of the year: clean, iron and do the grocery shopping. These lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. were shocked by the mundane aspects of life. You see, the staff of house assistants very often go home to their native countries at Christmas time or simply refuse to work during the holidays.

These career women I know couldn't wait for life to get back to "normal" at the conclusion of the holidays so they could avoid the everyday chores of their own houses. It's amazing to me how many of them do not do these rather "normal" duties, in my opinion.

It must be nice to only clean 2-3 weeks a year and not 2-3 days/week all-year long! (I am writing this post after having cleaned the oven and mopped the floors only hours before it started to rain, when the dog made them muddy again.)

Meanwhile for interesting statistics relating to the Italians who do clean, and of course they number many, there's an informative article at An Expatriate in Rapallo.


  1. Ha! Another great post! Right before Christmas I actually did a New Year's cleaning that generated seven 30 gallon hefty bags of storage & garbage. It needed to be done and only I could do it... so I definitely had more work than usual. And my wonderful Italian cleaning lady was on break -- but she deserved it. She works very hard all year long.


  2. Barbara, now that's a lot of cleaning! It sounds like you did it with the right attitude.

  3. I always looked forward to our cleaning 'angel' taking her month of August off - I did a once-a-year deep clean of the house - stuff she didn't have time to do. Now that she has retired and I am the cleaning angel, the deep cleaning never gets done! An acquaintance whom I think of as being quintessentially Italian was always furious when L took August off -- and my friend didn't even work. Perish the thought she should iron her own clothing!! It's just a really different point of view from the old American Puritan work ethic.