Christmas cheer on a shoestring

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THIS year Italy’s economic woes have made it increasingly difficult for comunes (local councils) to provide basic services, let alone to light up the main streets of small towns over Christmas.

The Ambulance Service Christmas tree.
The Ambulance Service Christmas tree.
The local council of Polinago, a small town in the mountains about an hour out of Modena, in partnership with the proloco (a volunteer group found in all small towns, which is responsible for arranging markets, fairs and events) came up with a novel, low-cost way to celebrate and light up the town for Christmas.

In early October, all residents were given a list of recyclable items and invited by the proloco to save them and place them in specially provided bins at the local comune.

The items were to be put to use later to make Christmas decorations. The Mayor, Gian Domenico Tomei, arranged for 20 tall pine trees, growing nearby, to be cut and placed along the main street and also in the main piazza and outside the door of the comune.

Children attending the local school, along with a variety of voluntary groups and members of the public, then used their artistic talent and ingenuity to make decorations using the recycled items such as yogurt pots, toilet rolls, plastic bottle tops and plastic bottles.

The main tree outside the comune (council) building.
The main tree outside the comune (council) building.
On Sunday evening, December 8, with the main street in darkness, on the count of 10, the decorated Christmas trees were lit up, along with shop windows and other trees covered in fairy lights. Corso Roma, the main street of Polinago, looked fantastic.

Residents were amazed by the various themes such as the voluntary ambulance service’s tree, which had miniature uniforms, stethoscopes, drips, cardboard ambulances and such draped all over it.

The Alpini (Alpine Corps) had old hiking boots and water bottles with the distinctive Alpini hat crowning the tree.

The tree decorated by the school children exhibited a breadth of artistic talent in the making of the brightly coloured decorations using only a wide variety of recycled objects.

Not only has this project lit up a small town facing a somewhat bleak economic Christmas period, but it has created a palpable sense of camaraderie, unity and joy in which all residents could in one way or another contribute and play a part.

Winnifred Rosser and David Malloch, former Canberra residents, now live in Polinago where they run a small B&B. More information at

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