Festive Season: Christmas
Ah, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year that saves the winter. I am not a big fan of winter, too cold, too dark and too many clothes to wear to stay warm but I have always found that the Christmas period cancels this opinion of the winter for like one month and a half.
What I love about the Christmas period are the decorations, the lights, the joy of finding the perfect gift for your dearest and the big dinner table surrounded by all your family with amazing, delicious food.
I wanted to write an article about the different traditions between Italy and Ireland but I found that we are quite similar on the celebrations so I thought why just don’t write about my traditions? So, here I am with a cup of tea, the Christmas tree turned on, thinking about all I do in this magic period.
What are some important traditions in Italy?
1. Immaculate Conception 8th December
December 8th is the day of the decorations. It is very common in Italy to decorate the house on the day of the Immaculate Conception right on the 8th; we are home from work so it is the perfect time to pull out the tree, the lights and start decorating the rooms and balconies.
2. The tradition of the Nativity scene
In addition to the Christmas tree, we also have the crib. You can find Nativity scenes that are composed of a small hut with Our Lady Joseph and Jesus (which should only be placed on Christmas Day) or large nativity scenes with not only the hut, but also the houses of the shepherds, the sheep, the wrought iron workshops, the houses with the mills and I had (it was a source of pride too) a little man who made polenta in the cauldron and, of course, the three magi who every day advance a little 'more with their gifts.
3. Christmas Eve
When I was a little girl it was tradition to go to Mass at midnight and after church stays out for a while to exchange greetings. When I grew up, my friends and I started going to alcoholic mass. It basically consisted of going to the square at midnight on Christmas Eve where there were stalls serving alcohol and a lot of young people spending a couple of hours with friends.
4. Christmas food in Italy
We usually meet with the whole family on December 25th. When I was a child I used to go to my grandparents' house while now, since unfortunately, they are no longer with us, we go to the restaurant. I think we go to the restaurant because no one wants to take care of the food and cook on Christmas day anyway, except us, a lot of people here in Italy celebrate at home with delicious food, amazing wine and a lot of relatives.
It’s impossible not to talk about food at Christmas. The food during this day must be a way to unite everyone around a single table. So it must be plentiful, traditional and accompanied by good wine. In my family, we usually eat fish on Christmas Eve and meat on Christmas Day. The dish that never missed in my Christmas? Lasagna
Christmas cake Italy
Number one of all the sweet of Christmas Pandoro. We don’t bake it anymore at home but prefer to buy it; you can find Pandoro at the supermarket or at the bakery and it can be traditional or revisited and more gourmet. Another must at Christmas is Panettone a soft dessert with raisins and candied fruit. Last but not least Torrone. Torrone is a rectangular bar of almonds and honey and glucose. My favourite is covered with dark chocolate.
5. Epiphany - La Befana
As per tradition, the 6th of January is the Epiphany. The popular saying says: “ L’epifania che tutte le feste porta via”, translated in “The Epiphany that all the holidays take away”. The 6th of January is the last day of holidays for children, is the day to remove all the Christmas decorations and in Veneto, and other regions in the north of Italy is the day to burn the witch. In my small town, we do a pile of wood in the middle of a river with at the top a witch (a fake one of course) and we burn it, accompanying the evening with mulled wine and pinza (a traditional cake). We burn the witch as a sign of hope for the new year and according to where it goes ash promises a good year or one, not really good.
What about the Christmas tradition in your country? Are they the same? Leave a comment and share your traditions.
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Happy Holiday Season!!