Christmas traditions in ItalyItalian traditions are based heavily on the religion of Christianity. The Christmas season goes forthree weeks, starting eight days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period,bagpipe players, dress up as shepherds and go into the villages to play outside churches and inpopular city squares.
Christmas food The essence of Christmas Day in Italy is family, love and food. Italian festive food varies from region to region, although there are some common dishes. In the Italian Catholic tradition, Christmas Eve is a day for abstinence from meat so a celebratory banquet frequently features fish: some families even prepare as many as different fish dishes! In Rome and southern Italy a dish made with fried eels is a firm favourite. After dinner Italians head off for midnight mass.Lunch on Christmas Day is the most important of all Christmas feasts and it is alength affair.Tortellini in chicken broth and a pig’s foot filled with mince meat are particularpopular in northern Italy.Lamb and vegetables are common in southern Italy.
Christmas cakes The most popular dessert is Panettone cake filled with candied fruit and raisins. The main, traditional cake is gold bread,called Pandoro, which is very similar butwithout the candied fruit or raisins.
Christmas decorationsLights and decorations are often seen starting around December 8th.Italians have adopted some of the northern European traditions. Nowadays,especially in northern Italy, a fair number of families decorate an evergreen tree intheir home. Baby Jesus or Father Christmas put the presents under the ChristmasTree.Children open their presents on Christmas Day morning or after lunch.
The CribThe main focus of decorations is the crib.It represents The Holy Family in the stable. The crib consists of figurines, in clayor plaster , of the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph. An ox and ass are nearby becauselegend has it that they warmed the child with their breath.It is around this basic focal point that there are intricate landscapes.There may be grottoes, small trees, lakes, rivers, the lights of "Bethlehem" in thebackground.The crib is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pine cones and miniaturecolored pennants. A star or a small angel is hung at the top of it.Many people set up a small Christmas crib in their house.
The BefanaShe is a kindly old witch who rides around on a broomstick.The legend is that the Three Wise Men stopped at Befana’s hut to ask directions ontheir way to Bethlehem and asked her to join them. She said no. Later when it wasdark and she saw a great light in the sky, she thought perhaps she should have gonewith the Wise Men.So, she gathered some toys that belonged to her own baby, who died, and ran tofind the three kings. But Befana couldn’t find them or the stable where Christ Childlaid.Now each year she looks for the Christ child. She visits every house where thereare children and leaves gifts just in case one of them happens to be the ChristChild.For the naughty children it is said she only leaves coals, but that is very rare sincethere are very seldom any really naughty children, especially during Christmas time,when they know Befana is on her way!