As the festive season approaches, some may want to celebrate the season the Italian way. Christmas, or “Natale,” is when families and friends gather to celebrate with warmth, joy, and plenty of fantastic food. Today, we will discuss some of the many Italian Christmas traditions, including delicious treats that grace the holiday table and make the season memorable.
The Italian Christmas festivities usually start on Christmas Eve with “La Vigilia di Natale.” This is a celebration centered around the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This seafood extravaganza features a wide variety of fish dishes, symbolizing abundance and prosperity. Your Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes can feature all kinds of seafood, from salted cod to fried calamari and shrimp. Each dish is a cultural testament to the coastal influence on Italy’s tradition. Moving more towards the heart of Italy, such as Emilia-Romanga, traditional Italian Christmas day dinners feature hearty dishes like Zampone and Cotechino. These are pork sausages that are traditionally served with lentils. This symbolizes good fortune for the upcoming year. The sausages are rich, flavorful, and perfectly cooked, portraying the essence of Italian Christmas food.
Of course, you can’t talk about Italian Christmas traditions without mentioning sweets. No Italian Christmas is complete without the iconic sweet loaves of bread known as Panettone and Pandoro. Panettone is a dome-shaped bread filled with candied fruits and raisins. Pandoro is a golden-looking, star-shaped cake that is dusted with powdered sugar. These treats usually pair perfectly with a sweet glass of wine or a cup of espresso. When mentioning sweet treats, we also need to mention Torrone and Panforte. Torrone is a nougat creation made with honey, sugar, and nuts. Panforte is a very dense and spiced fruit cake. These beloved treats are essential to traditional Italian Christmas if you want a festive fix for your sweet tooth.
Moving on from food, Italy embraces the tradition of creating an intricate nativity scene. This is known as “Presepi”. Italian Christmas nativity sets often feature handmade figurines to capture the story of Christmas. Many towns in Italy will host elaborate competitions and Italian festivals, displaying these scenes of Christmas and allowing locals to showcase their creativity and craftsmanship. On Christmas day, many families come together for a lavish lunch featuring roast meats, lasagna, and a large variety of side dishes. This meal is the perfect time for joy, laughter, and the exchange of gifts. Later in the evening, many gather to attend midnight mass or “La Messa di Natale” to express gratitude and celebrate the true meaning of this festive season.