Gifts and kind messages: Rome's Christmas Boxes for strangers

"I don't know you but you are in my thoughts": Kind-hearted Romans embrace concept of 'Christmas Boxes' for those less fortunate.

A box of simple Christmas gifts, accompanied by a message of kindness, is at the heart of Le Scatole di Natale (Christmas Boxes), a campaign that is gaining momentum in Rome and other Italian cities during this festive season.

The movement relies on the kindness of people towards strangers whom they will never meet, but unlike many other charitable initiatives, Le Scatole di Natale is 'targeted' and requests donors to specify on the wrapping paper who their box of presents is for: women, men, girls, boys.

The concept is simple, fill a box with the following objects: a warm thing (such as a scarf, a pair of gloves, a jumper or blanket), a sweet thing (such as a panettone or nougat), a pastime (such as a book, magazine, pencils), a beauty product and - most importantly - a message of kindness.

The movement has quickly made its way into the hearts of many Romans, reports Italian newspaper La Repubblica, going far beyond the expectations of its volunteers and organisers.

In the last few days almost 5,000 people have joined the Facebook page Le Scatole di Natale Roma whose organisation is coordinated by Claudia Graziani of the ZeroCento association.

"Initially I had thought of allocating the packages only to the mothers of the neighbourhood" - Graziani told La Repubblica - "But, in just a few hours, there was such a response and participation from so many families that I decided to extend it to everyone."

There are a few simple guidelines: the "warm thing" and the "pastime" can be used but must be in good condition.

The "sweet thing" must be non-perishable and well within date. The same goes for beauty products: shower gel, toothpaste, perfume must be intact and not already open.

Photo Le Scatole di Natale Roma

As for the message of kindness, it can either be in words or a drawing, so long as it brightens the heart of whoever opens the box. La Repubblica gives some examples:

"Hello unknown friend, I hope this package will give you serenity and that your eyes will light up," writes Agnese."We must resist and dream and hope that everything will be all right", reads another note.

"I know you feel poor but with us you are rich," is written in capital letters on a page with a drawing of a Christmas tree, a man with raised fists and a red love heart.

"I don't know you but you are in my thoughts," writes Manu.

Photo Le Scatole di Natale Roma

Donors have until 22 December to prepare and deliver their Christmas Boxes, booking their drop-off time to avoid gatherings, in compliance with covid-19 regulations.

For full information on your nearest collection points see 'Le Scatole di Natale Roma' Facebook page.