For the holiday season, I can only think of one photograph to share with my readers that represents the essence of holiday travel. While I could slap up a picture of squawking people at the airport or pushy shoppers edging you out of the latest deal, I selected this particular photograph showcasing the ultimate holiday journey.
The baroque creamy buildings look almost as if they are glowing. Gazing down from my Sicilian balcony, I think the buildings really are radiating light. Streaming lines of uniformed men follow an angelic statue to Mary. It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Siracusa, Sicily and the entire town has come out to parade through the cold sea air.
As a marching band resounds its song, I begin to understand. This is holiday travel at its finest. No one is pushing to get the best view of Mary. They are parading slowing with Mary as their guide. Flight delays and snowstorms do not enter this equation of holiday travel. It may only be travel for a night and right outside locals’ doors, but it is holiday travel nonetheless. These Sicilians are truly traveling.
I sit watching not Mary, but the faces on the Sicilians below me. They bear expressions of devotion, faith, and tradition. Who knows if they are actually practicing Catholics, but that does not seem to be the main goal of parading a giant Mary statue through the old streets of Ortigia. The idea is to uphold centuries of tradition, and faith in that very tradition. The sense is without question that older generations have been coming out to follow Mary their entire lives. That is holiday travel worth participating in for centuries, an ornate parade that at the same time is so simple, so understated, and so remarkable to foreign eyes. Buon Natale!