La Bomboniera

by Annie
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Spring in Italy ushers in the season of mild temperatures, blooming flowers, and—inevitably–la ceremonia.

Italy is, of course, a traditionally Catholic country and the lifespan of the average Italian is marked by a series of religious rites (including one’s christening, first communion and confirmation, and marriage) and all the pomp and circumstance that surround these events. Though tough economic times have meant that many families have scaled back the elaborate and expensive celebratory meals and parties, one feature of la ceremonia remains sacrosanct: la bomboniera.

JordanAlmondsLa bomboniera is, roughly translated, a party favor. It is formed by two parts:

  1. i confetti (jordan almonds), always an odd number for luck (most often five to represent fertility, happiness, health, longevity, and wealth) , elaborately wrapped in tulle or satin, and adorned with coordinated  colors of ribbon, lace, and flowers.
  2. l’oggetto, a small gift to thank the recipient (almost always a guest at the event) for their participation.

bonboniere 005L’oggetto can span a vast range of tastes (and budgets). I have a numerous collection of these (most of them, to be honest, hidden away in closets), which run the gamut from truly horrific ceramic unicorns and silver-plated Virgin Mary statuettes to genuinely lovely hand-painted majolica vases and original pen-and-ink artwork.

Like all aspects of la cerimonia, la bomboniera reflects the taste and personality of the hosts. A very traditional family or couple tends toward the religious or purely decorative china or crystal bric-a-brac, where a more contemporary style can be reflected in an informal oggetto made by a local artisan or, for the even more hipster family, a donation made to Unicef or another charitable organization (the oggetto, in these cases, is a small certificate to that effect).

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Though the younger generation of Italians make noises about la bomboniera (it tends to be a big expense, and the appalling aesthetics of many oggetti have become a running cultural joke), I have yet to attend a cerimonia which does not include la bomboniera. Some traditions, against the odds, are destined to live on.

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