Blue for a boy, pink for a girl.
As soon as the newborn Italian babies take their first breath, their adoring families share the happiness that only a new arrival can bring with the world. A frilly ribbon in the respective colour is pinned to the entrance door of the house signalling to all that pass that the gift of life has been bestowed on us.
As you walk through town, blue and pink ribbons wave at you, making you excited for the new parents who behind closed doors are spending their first so special moments with their daughter or son.
Sometimes the ribbons are small, sometimes they are really large. At times a stork is pinned to the door in addition to them. And only a week or two ago a bunch of blue ribbons adorned the local macelleria together with a poster which proudly proclaimed: ‘E nato Fillipo!‘ (Fillipo is born).
In the days that followed, you could tell by the faces of the people in the shop that they had popped down to the macelleria not just to buy their daily sausages or minced meat, but above all to congratulate the butcher on the birth of his son, to feel proud and happy with him.
I love this public sharing of such an intimate joy. By pinning the ribbon to the door, it seems to me that the Italians not only partake in an old tradition to announce the birth of their child, but they also tell the community: ‘Look, here is another one of us. He or she is special. Still just a baby, but needing a warm welcome from all of us. So, send him or her your best wishes as you pass by and, please, don’t make too much noise on the street, as the baby needs to sleep.’
Since we moved to Italy in August last year, I have often observed the Italians and noted in my mind their attitude to babies and children. Everyone here seems to have time for a little one. A lovely compliment is paid to proud parents as a buggy passes by. Children are encouraged to greet each other with a wave and a shy ‘Ciao‘. Parents easily chat to each other about their children even if they have never met before.
I distinctly remember a breakfast at a hotel in Verona, when parents with babies and toddlers sitting at different tables would make some small talk asking each other if their little ones had slept well through the night. At first I thought we were in the midst of a large group of friends, until it downed on me that these people didn’t know each other and were being social and polite to show support for a fellow parent.
Another memory embedded in my mind is of a kind lady, a parent herself, who in Arena di Verona tried to make our little daughter laugh, just as she was refusing to have her picture taken by us. It was a lovely gesture, appreciated by my husband and I, as we were perched high up on the steps of the huge Roman amphitheatre holding the camera, our bags and our toddler in the Ergo carrier all the while trying to get a nice photo to remind us of a great day.
So, when I see a blue or a pink ribbon adorning yet another door in Vicenza or anywhere else in Italy, I get all emotional imagining the little baby and the happiness he or she has brought the family. A child is born. The world has got a new hope.