CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS, THE ITALIAN WAY
Much like in England, Christmas for Italians is based around spending time with family and friends and indulging in delicious, hearty food. Christmas festivities officially start for most Italians on the 8th December when decorations go up in the streets and around the homes.
Let us talk you through a typical Christmas in Italy, including their delicious food and traditions.
Christmas Eve, which is known as ‘La Vigilia’ is a big celebration for Italians. They typically fast all day and after evening Mass they will return home to an Italian feast, which has been prepared throughout the day. The feast is full of fish with no meat being offered. This is to help purify the body before indulging in richer foods on Christmas day. In the North of the country if snow has fallen, some families go skiing at midnight to welcome in Christmas.
Italians save up throughout the year and serve luxurious treats that wouldn’t be served at any other time of the year, much like in England. Christmas day delicacies include pasta, tortellini, crostini with pate and a stuffed pig’s foot filled with mincemeat. To finish off the Christmas Day feast, Italian desserts are served, including nougat and panettone cake. A popular drink called bombardino is served, equivalent to what we know as eggnog. Italians also love mulled wine, as well as a delicious cup of warming amaretto coffee. Depending on where you are from in Italy and your religious beliefs, depends on when you open your presents. Most commonly, gifts are opened after lunch on Christmas day. However, smaller Northern cities open them as early as the 13th December. Presents become part of the Christmas decorations which they put up around the home, along with candles and other festive decorations.
The day after Christmas day is another celebration, much like Boxing Day in England. In Italy it is known as ‘St Stephens Day’. Friends and family are invited over for yet another festive feast, consisting of leftovers from the day before, typically including fish and pasta. After the feast, people go out and explore the nativity scenes and churches, with the nativity scene being performed in some cities.
The Epiphany is a national holiday celebrated in Italy on January 6th, concluding the Christmas festivities. It is known as ‘Le Befana’ and celebrates the 12th day of Christmas when the three wise men offered Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. As they are celebrating the three wise men, they need to eat like kings! Italian families gather around the table and prepare delicious food including cured meats, cheese and of course pasta. The dessert served is struffoli, which showcases deep fried dough balls mixed with honey. Many towns in Italy, especially Rome and Bologna, celebrate with parades and parties. Le Befana is believed to be a witch who arrives on her broomstick the night before, looking for baby Jesus and giving gifts to children.
Now you know how Italians celebrate Christmas in Italy. Why not come in to Cucina Rustica and have an Italian Christmas a little closer to home. Check out our delicious Christmas menu here