18 Dec Italian Holiday Traditions
The holidays are finally here. It is the perfect time to spend with your family, relax and reset for a new year. This year has been unlike any other, and while Christmas may feel a bit different, we can still enjoy it with those closest to us, our family.
Around the world, each country or culture has its own specific Christmas traditions. For Italians, it is no different. While the traditions can vary from Northern to Southern Italy, a common theme is an emphasis placed on family, food and celebration. A well-known Italian proverb puts it best, saying that Christmas should be spent with family and Easter with whoever you want.
Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.”
Family is an integral part of Italian culture, ingrained in everyday life. Christmas for Italians is generally celebrated intimately among close family. In Italy, the holiday season “officially” kicks off on December 8, for the Feast of The Immaculate Conception. The festivities last until January 6, the 12th day of Christmas known as Epiphany. This entire month is a time of abundance (abbondanza), celebration and long meals. It is not uncommon for Italians to spend up to four or five hours together, feasting on multiple courses.
Many Italians don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve and instead turn to fish. This practice has its roots in Catholicism, which prohibits the consumption of meat before religious holidays. A seafood meal is often eaten with family before heading to mass. The type of seafood will vary depending on the region; you might see salted cod served in Northern Italy or Eel in the South.
A massive lunch of a dozen or more courses is a popular tradition on Christmas Day. Historically, Christmas was one of the few times that poor people could feast, cooking expensive dishes using meat, sugar, and more exotic spices. While the motives may have shifted since these times, the tradition hasn’t. Come hungry as this “lunch” could last all day and feature a wide variety of dishes.
Santa is not the only one delivering Christmas gifts. January 6 generally marks the end of the holiday season for Italians. On this day, there is a visit from la Befana, which translates to “the good witch.” According to tradition, good children would wake up to a stocking filled with candy, and the bad ones would only find coal, similar to Santa’s ‘Naughty or Nice’ list.
While each milestone may call for a particular dish (or many of them), desserts and sweet treats are common throughout the holiday season. A popular way to finish off a meal is with Panettone, a spongy cake filled with fruit that perfectly pairs with hot chocolate. Suppose you’re looking to have a taste of Italy to enjoy with the family during Christmas in Calgary. In that case, you could order something less traditional such as one of our custom Gelato Cakes. Or maybe get creative and take your extra time away from work to search up some recipes to make as a family.
Amato Gelato would like to wish Happy Holidays to all. Please stay safe during these unprecedented times and take time to reflect on what’s truly important.
Our Italian café in Calgary is open year-round and located in the community of Kensington. We are known for our rotating variety of 72 flavours of Gelato and Sorbetto, all made in-house with fresh ingredients. Enjoy our expanded menu, which offers espresso and coffee, Italian pastries, paninis, and more.