What is Christmas in Italy like? It’s mountains, sometimes snow, sometimes up to 20 degrees and sunny, log burners, bonfires, pruning olive trees, fireworks, arrosto carne (roasted meat), wolves howling in the distance, pretty twinkling lights in mountain-top villages, it’s huge slabs of panettone whether you like it or not (I love cherry or chocolate, but Will and I detest dried fruit!), italian cookies, hot chocolate so thick you can stand your spoon up in it, festas and candles flickering in wooden partially-shuttered windows…..
Incidentally, Father Christmas (Babbo Natale) is a
fairly new tradition in Italy. He appeared with Coca-Cola from America and was adopted as a Christmas tradition. La Befana is the traditional Italian Christmas figure. An old woman who flies on a broom at the Epiphany, bringing sweets and gifts for good children and disappointing bad children with coal, garlic and onions!
Italians generally eat fish on Christmas Eve, up to seven courses. What they eat on Christmas Day varies in each region, but roast pork is popular in Abruzzo. The traditional cake in Abruzzo is a parrozzo, which is made from semolina, sugar, eggs, ground almonds, bitter almond essence and candied lemon/orange peel, covered in chocolate. It is delicious.
Instead of writing letters to Father Christmas, Italian children write a letter to their parents telling them how much they love them. The letter is placed under their Father’s plate and read after Christmas Eve dinner. How wonderful is that! My eldest is about old enough to learn this tradition so I might keep telling him about this, hint, hint.
Of course, Christmas is about who you are with. My favourite thing is all four of us sitting on our sofa with our big chunky blanket over us, looking at the mountains through our window with the log burner crackling.