The Nativity celebrations in Rome this year were austere even though the Italian Government lifted the fuel-saving restrictions for both Christmas Day. and Boxing Day — that ancient and historic British institution which saw inaugurated the custom of giving Christmas "boxes" to the postmen and others who called at the house.
There are many in Rome today who. when queried about this custom or when approached by the multiplicity of firstclass mail, second-class mail, parcel post, telegram. etc.. delivery Men, think that they should get a "box on the ear" instead of a Christmas box in view .of the strikes and virtual non-delivery of mail in Italy.
As some slight gleam of promised hope and relief from the stringent measures adopted a month ago, Italians were permitted to use their private cars on both of these days and on New Year's Dav, too.
This lifting of the Sunday and holiday ban on driving meant that alt could attend midnight Mass without fear of having to walk home in the cold.
However. in line with the general austerity and the capital's streets blacked out by half, the Vatican ordered that the customary brilliant displays of lights within the churches should he reduced to a minimum consistent with the occasion.
Nonetheless, even with only half the lights on, especially in the brilliant. scintillating crystal chandeliers. St. Peter's never fails to sparkle from vault to marble floor and the unfamiliar pilgrim or tourist would have noted little difference.
Pope Paul himself celebrated his customary Christmas Eve Mass in the Sistine Chapel for
the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.
Ile also celebrated the Christmas Day Mass in Si_ Peter's and gave his urbi et orbi blessing to the throngs in St. Peter's Square afterwards.
Somchow it would not seem a real Christmas if Italian drivers were not able to lean on their car horns to acclaim for the Pope — a t■pically Roman form of greeting, but one which shows their respect anti admiration. if not always their sincere religious convictions. for the figure of the Pontiff.
Every individual language eolonv within the capital also held its own celebrations. St. Sylvester, the English-language church in Rome, held a Midnight Mass followed by tea, coffee and cakes plus some alcoholic refreshment — for visitors to Rome. The American
church. anti the German church also had their own celebrations,