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Christmas in Italy
Waiting For Christmas
Available in Italian: Natale in Italia
Related : St. Nicolo: The original Santa Claus
From the blogs Christmas in Calabria
Christmas holiday is considered, just about worldwide, the most important holyday of the year. Its celebrated on December 25th and, according to the Christian people, this day Christ's birth date is worshiped.
Actually Christmas has pagan origins. In the old roman times it was the day in which the god Mitra was worshiped. Mitra represented the sun and was therefore connected to its crossing path in the sky. At a later time around the IV - V century A.D., after Christianity spread, the cult for Jesus took over Mitra which for the Christians also represents light.
In our days when speaking of Christmas we refer to it as a period of time which goes from December 24th to January 6th and therefore includes Christmas Eve (December 24th), Christmas (December 25th), Saint Stephen (December 26th), New Year (night of December 31st - January 1st) and Epiphany (January 6th), this represented by a likeable old lady, who, in the night between January 5th and 6th, enters the houses riding a broom, bringing presents and filling socks with candies for the kids who behaved well and coal for the ones who behaved like rascals.
During the period preceding the real holydays is a tradition to set up the "Presepe" (Crib) and the Christmas tree. The "Presepe" (Crib) is the exact reproduction, by means of small statues, of scenes regarding Jesus birth, while the tree is a fir, real or fake, decorated with colored balls and multicolored lights. Always as a tradition the "Presepe" (Crib) and the tree are set up on December 8th , the day of the Immacolata (the day the Virgin Mary is celebrated) and put away in the evening of next year on January 6th.
For families in all the world Christmas is the chance to get together, eat and exchange presents as sign of mutual affection. Italian family is no exception in which the cult for food reveals itself in all his might in an eating marathon which sees us engaged in tasting all kind of dishes, from sweet to sour, from fish to meat, all obviously in more than abundant portions.
The menus could vary, with recipes handed down from one generation to the next and/or typical from the region of origin, to refurbished or new "trend", influenced by typical ingredients coming from other parts of the world.
In my specific case, having my father from Abbruzzo and my mother from the island of Ischia, living in Rome for over 40 years, the holidays menu are a little mixture of these three regions.
December 24th Christmas Eve dinner in based on fish. Appetizers, fundamental in the Italian more important lunch/dinners, could be made of canapes with various kinds of pate (olives, artichokes, eggplants, etc.), sea salad, small artichokes and other vegetables preserved in oil (best if home made), toasted bread with butter and anchovies, if you got more to add - go right ahead!!
First course could be "Pescatora Rice" (rice with sea food) or spaghetti with clams, to which a chickpea soup, Abbruzzese style, can be added.
Going on to the second course: mixed fried fish, sea bream and bass cooked in the oven with potatoes and side salad, are the top of the line. Fried vegetables (artichokes, cauliflower, zucchini), which are instead part of the Roman tradition, are never missing.
December 25th lunch, therefore on Christmas day, its permissible to eat meat. First course is either a Lasagna, Cannelloni or a timbale of pasta, while for second course we see mixed roast or roast beef.
In both cases, to complete it all, various types of cheeses, then fruits, dried fruits and lots of sweets, everything soaked by a good wine, red or white, and rivers of sparkling wine, coffee and coffee killers (Grappa, Whiskey and other hard liquors)
Even if the menu varies from region to region and that is absolutely possible, you will always find on every Italian table Panettone, Pandoro and Torrone.
The Panettone and Pandoro are their "excellencies" as far as Christmas cakes are concerned. Panettone, made in the region of Lombardy, is characterized by containing raisins and candied fruits. People who don't like these ingredients choose the Pandoro, made in Verona, which has a soft dough and golden color and is served with a veil of sprinkled sugar.
The Torrone, the most typical of the Christmas sweets, its available with honey or chocolate almonds or pistachios, its also comes in a mini version, mono dose, called "Condorello", named after the manufacturer.
In conclusion, beware of fakes and be careful!! Not everything that its shown on various networks dedicated to food its made in Italy like they say, but they are only substitutes for the Italian tradition.
Happy Holidays to all of you!