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Christmas may be over, but in Naples, the celebrations continue. Neapolitans love the holiday season and try to stretch it out as long as possible. The famed Christmas Alley (Via San Gregorio Armeno, if you’re looking on a map) features shops and stalls selling traditional Italian holiday decorations and is open year-round. The street is THE place to shop for precepe — manger scenes depicting the birth of Christ.

The artisans who create these works have branched out into more secular pieces depicting everyday life in Napoli. You can find pizza chefs, fishmongers, grocers and even whole neighborhoods carved into these wood-and-bark structures. If you want to see these pieces being created, check out the Exhibition of the Cribmakers Art, which runs through mid-January. It is at Valeriano Hall, at the Gesu Nuovo Monumental Complex just off Christmas Alley.

In addition to all the shopping, the city has many ongoing exhibits that range from the traditional to the humorous, such as the living tombola game at Castel Nuevo downtown near the port. Tombola is similar to bingo, but instead of boring numbers, the game uses pictures — some of the adult variety.

There are many concerts around the city featuring different styles of religious music, including gospel and classical. The venues range from churches and piazzas to bank lobbies. One of the biggest musical celebrations however, is the New Year’s Eve concert in Piazza del Plebiscito. Just be warned, the crowds here can rival those in Times Square, and just about everyone lights off fireworks.

Looking for something to do Wednesday evening? The Naples Community Theater is putting on a show featuring jazz, hip-hop, country, rock and pop music at the Teatro Bolivar on Via Bartolomeo Caracciolo. This free event is sponsored by the United Service Organizations and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The theater group is collecting donations at the door to benefit families of firefighters affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

While most tourists who travel to Italy this time of year flock to Rome and the Vatican, the crowds can make those destinations a less-than-pleasant experience. For an extensive listing of holiday happenings in Naples, the Web site is a good place to start.

But remember, as in all things Neapolitan, times and dates may not be exactly as written, so double-check before going.

In any event, there’s plenty to do in Naples to keep you in the holiday spirit long after the last champagne bottle is uncorked.

Best wishes

Out with old, and in with the new — that phrase couldn’t be any truer than here in Italy for the New Year’s celebration.

The tradition is to discard old, and all things considered bad that might have plagued you throughout the year, and buy replacements to bring good luck.

People actually used to throw things — plates, glasses, pots and pans, old clothing, even furniture — out of windows and from balconies. It was said that the most dangerous place to be on New Year’s Eve was on the streets.

And yes, the practice has been outlawed. But Italians can be stubborn and staunch in their old practices. Ask around, and people will tell you that in some places — mostly in the rural outskirts of cities — the practice still continues. So head’s up.

On a different note: To wish an Italian a Happy New Year, speak no fewer than these words:

Buon capo d’anno.

Translation: Happy New Year.

Phonetically: bwun kah-poe d-an-no.


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