Celebrating Christmas in Italy, Part IV: Christmas Day Traditions

This is the first full week of Christmas celebrations in Italy presepi are being blessed at local churches, lights are strung across streets, children are singing Christmas carols and preparing for school programs.

It is enough to make me want to sing Jingle Bells and start roasting a turkey.

Oh. But wait. They don’t do that here.

They do have Christmas Day traditions, though and today we are wrapping up our Four-Part Series on Christmas in Italy.

In case you have missed the Christmas in Italy series, you can catch up here.

Part I – Overview of Christmas in Italy

Part II – Traditional Christmas Eve Dinner Menu

Part III – Kicking off the Season with the Immacolata

And now … (drum roll please)

Celebrating Christmas in Italy, Part IV: Christmas Day Traditions

The Morning:

After Babbo Natale has left his gifts for all of the good little ragazzi, the family finishes off the pandoro or panettone from their Christmas Eve feast. The kids play with their new toys, and extended families – like in America – often come together to celebrate Christmas Day.

For Italians with large families it seems Grandma’s place is *still* the place to go for Christmas pranzo.

The Food:

Just like the Vigilia dinner, Italians enjoy course after course of homemade antipasto, pasta, second plates and desserts. This time … without the fish.

A typical Christmas Day dinner might be:

Antipasto: Assorted cheeses, olives, fried zucchini blossoms, prosciutto and salami

First Plates: Lasagna or baked pasta (often stuffed with meat sauce, eggs, cheese and sausage)

Second Plates: Roasted chicken or goat, served with salad, potatoes and/or green peas

Seasonal Fruit

Desserts: Panettone or pandoro, served with spumante, crostata with ricotta cheese and torroncini candy

The Fun:

Instead of rushing off to Maw Maw’s sofa post-stuffing for a nap like I do back home, Italians pull out the Tombola.

Tombola is Italian bingo and in many families is a cherished Christmas time tradition. Modern Tombola cards are plastic but traditionally players used beans or orange peels (they ate as they went).

What are your favorite Christmas traditions from home? Which traditions do you hope to pass to your children?

* Please note that all of the customs and traditions I am referring to may be typical of southern Italy, specifically Calabria. I’m no expert on the other regions, but I hope those of you who are will chip in with your two centesimi!

5 Responses
  1. I laughed reading your post. Just last night my son (almost 4) was singing “Jingle Bells” in English. It wasn’t exact but it was pretty close with some iffy pronunciation. I was surprised because I’ve never played that song so I asked where he learned it. “At shcool” was his answer! It was too funny.
    That is cute. There is an Italian version my students were going to write down for me, but it isn’t about playing in the snow … it is about Baby Jesus!
    South of Rome’s last blog post..Sicilian Trash

  2. Goat, did you say goat? Uh, I’ll stick with the chicken!!

    I think our Christmas dinner is a tradtion i like, I like Christmas Music too. Do Italians get a Christmas tree for their home?
    Ha! I am with you on that one, Robin.
    My Melange’s last blog post..How to Rescue a Tomato

  3. Here it is agnolotti with ragù or capelletti al brodo. Olga was making her capelletti today– tiniest ever because she is brava. Then capon. It’s pretty much the only time you see capon.
    I’ve been invited for la Vigilia and I am really looking forward to it.
    Ohhh fun! I hope you will tell us all about it!
    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Antipasto mousses

  4. j

    Torons and panettone ,yes, and we also always had panforte. Is that not a Christmas thing there?
    Oh yea, that is a Christmas thing here, as well! I’m not crazy about them, though, are you?

Leave a Reply