As we try and take in as many activities as possible in this Christmas season – since we will only be here in Italy one Christmas – we have had a busy week.
Downtown we have seen decorated Christmas trees, carnivals, and lights.
This is Saint Peter's at night with the big Christmas tree in front. There are no lights on this tree, only hundreds of shiny balls. The two street lamps shining on the tree makes the tree appear to be lighted. This is a Christmas witch by the name of Scacciaguai. She is the good luck witch. If you have been good, then she sees that you get presents. If you have been bad, you receive a lump of coal at Christmas. (Sound familiar?) These two witches are Buffana witches. They announce January 6th that the gift giving is over. Here is Will choosing his Christmas gift. Tree in front of Venezia Square.
Last night, Friday, we attended our ward Christmas party. After a program with talks and a couple of Christmas songs, we had a Christmas feast. We took potluck salads and the ward provided bread, spicy, delicious pork roast, Christmas cake, and drinks. Santa came of course for the kids.(Got to love the fake beard) Here is Karen playing grandma to a new baby in the ward. She loved it! Everyone had a great time being together.
Today, Saturday, Burt’s and us found an Arts and Crafts Show to attend. There were many things to taste, look at, and buy if you were so inclined. It made a fun day. Can’t believe Christmas Eve and Christmas 2009 is actually less than a week away.
We love you all. And we love Jesus Christ! How blessed we are to know that He is our Savior and Redeemer. That He would come to this earth as a tiny babe, grow up teaching us the way of the Lord, and be crucified and resurrected for each one of us individually is our special, eternal gift. May we think of Him often during the Christmas season.
This week has been all about people. Italian people, German people, French people, Spanish people, English speaking people. We arrived in Zollikofen, Switzerland at 8:00 on Tuesday morning, after a 13-hour bus trip from Rome. Our rooms at the hostel were not ready for occupancy, so we stacked our luggage in the halls, and our new 19-year old friend, Danielle, traveled with us to Bern on the train to see that city. Danielle is an aupair (nanny) from Oregon working in Rome.
At the train station, we met Sarah, who showed us how to purchase the ticket, validate it, and traveled with us on the train into the city of Bern. There we took a walking tour, where we saw many fountains, famous clocks, and the Swiss bank where 80% of Switzerland’s gold is stored. The Aarne river runs through the city, and Einstein’s house was somewhere down in this cluster of houses. Everyone we talked to was very friendly, and most of them spoke good English. Switzerland is very clean and the outside European markets abound and are delightful. Will and I traveled into Bern one more evening and enjoyed the Christmas lights and decorations. But the highlight of our trip, of course, was the beautiful Swiss temple. And that is where we spent our time. The Swiss temple is the 9th temple built in these latter-days since the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. It is beautifully appointed and the peace and tranquility of the spirit of the Lord permeates the inside of the temple and the temple grounds. These are some of the special people we met there:
President Castellani, the temple president, is from Milan. He is a tall man, with a delightful smile, and an ever-encouraging word. President Castellani and his sweet wife are very easy to love.
Sister Edith Lehmann from Zurich. This lovely temple worker was so fun to visit with at lunch in the temple “cafeteria.” Sister Giraud-Carrier, from France, who I first met in Initiatory, and then we worked with her husband doing Sealings.
Sister Koch, a soft-spoken assistant temple matron, with whom I had a long visit in the bride’s room while waiting for a session.
President Heber J. Grant – not really – but this session director looked just like President Grant – right down to his white beard - and radiated such a love and peace through his eyes. He invited us to be the witness couple during the session he was conducting. What a privilege and a delight! Of course, we also totally enjoyed the members of our stake who were in attendance at the temple. We met Sister Celestini’s parents. Her dad was the sealer in one of our sealing sessions. The Guidara’s - from our ward. We were also invited to be the witness couple during our very first session by Brother Guidara, the session director for that session. Sister Squasrwa from Ladispoli. Jeffrey, the brother who was watching over the youth on the bus. Barbara from our stake who served her mission at Temple Square in SLC: graciously interpreted for us during the testimony meeting the last night of our stay. By the end of the week, there were many other familiar faces, but not names to go with each of them. We only knew we felt a great bond with them in doing this important work of the Lord. We are so grateful that we were given this tremendous opportunity to serve for one week in this way. Our Heavenly Father continues to bless us abundantly and we felt of His love and presence in His holy house.