Christmas in Italy
It’s gorgeous in Italy in late November. If you blinker yourselves from the obvious toyshops you will still see it’s just late autumn everywhere and Christmas isn’t yet the central feature. This will change over the next couple of weeks and the 8th December, the day that the immaculate conception is celebrated here with a national holiday, Christmas begins in earnest. This is the day that families tend to put their tree up and decorate their houses – how perfectly Italian to have a day dedicated to this and to reflect on the meaning of the celebration.
That said, certainly amongst the younger generations, religion isn’t the centrepiece of Christmas that it used to be. Of course it is now quite commercial here too. You may go to midnight mass or perhaps a morning service on the 25th and of course most houses have a model nativity scene on show but it feels as if this is more for the sake of tradition than core belief.
Above all, Christmas in Italy is about family and much of that centres around the table. There is a gorgeous tradition of preparing food all together across the generations and then enjoying it in a leisurely way.
The feast typically begins on the 24th with dinner that might well have fish as the theme throughout the courses. Then on the 25th certainly extensive antipasti followed by probably tortellini in brodo (a delicious, comforting but typically light broth) and then a secondo of roasted meat (each family has its own preference depending on the region or their own traditions). Contorni of course of roasted potatoes and perhaps some seasonal vegetables typically enjoyed after the meat. Then to something a little sweeter: the obligatory panettone, as well as perhaps a more regional dessert. The 26th is usually reserved for extended family when it’s not typical to have a day of ‘left-overs’ but rather a whole new feast of generous, elaborate treats. And so it goes on until the New Year culminating on 6th January with the visit of La Befana, the witch who brings coal to naughty children and chocolate to angels.
This year we expect a particularly special Christmas in the Berger family with the arrival of our second son anticipated in the middle of December. What a magical end to the year. We wish the same for you all.