Neapolitans love to host events. Communions, baptisms, 18th birthdays, and the biggest of all, a wedding are huge, lavish, all day events. They stray from anything religious and you will have had a hard time trying to figure out what a horse drawn carriage and circus performance have to do with the holy sacrament of a child’s first communion. It leaves me stumped every time I attend one of these events. I come from a country that celebrates first communion with cake in a church basement after church.
The girls dress in extravagant child bride dresses, have professional photography sessions and then following the church event an all day party at an “event center” that looks like something you would only find for chic events in Hollywood. The meal lasts all afternoon from 2 pm until 6 or 7 pm, 4-5 courses are the norm. The whole day is centered on some sort of “animation”, anything from circus shows to small scale concerts. I’ve read this extravagance began as way to show that the families aren’t poor as was assumed in the past in Southern Italy.
Weddings are even longer and even more extravagant. If you attend also the church ceremony you are looking to spend more than 12 hours of the day at this wedding, going well into the night, finishing at 1-2 am. There is “animation” or teenagers that occupy the kids, while the adults eat for 7 hours and dance. Weddings usually have a grand finale of fireworks to close the party.
A simple Sunday lunch at a restaurant is also a small scale version of these parties. Lunch can began at 2 and continue until 5 or 6 in the evening. If you’re lucky the restaurant will have the animatore for children, a small playground, or a petting zoo. There will be 4-5 courses again and you will leave filling ill.
For these events, first and foremost you must dress to impress. Guest wedding attire usually must be formal and you will find yourself spending a mini fortune on dressing your family up to standards. The same goes on a lesser scale for the other events. Neapolitans love their version of fashion and as an a non Neapolitan you will stand out like a sore thumb if not dressed up the 9s (for me I don’t really care though!). Women should also have gotten their hair done at the hair salon before as well as makeup and nails.
These events are still, after five years, quite strange for me. I find them long, uncomfortable and I get the itch to leave and go somewhere else during them. Just another difference I run into here as an Anglo Saxon who grew up with shorter and more modest events.