I am so happy to have a facebook friend in Vicenza, Italy. I recently told her that I was interested in blogging about Christmas around the world. Lucky for me she generously shared the following story of how her charming town celebrates the Christmas holidays. Thank you so much Lish Hart.
“Christmas in Italy is a big affair from food, decorations and religion, not necessarily in that order.
Italy is divided into 20 regions, like 20 states, each have special foods and traditions. Up north on the border with Austria there is Saint Nicholas that brings sweets and toys to children on December 6th.
Other cities like Verona in the Veneto region Santa Lucia on December 13th does that also and in the south the city of Bari also celebrates San Nicola on December 6TH.
Foods vary depending on the products of the land. In the south, baked goods with dry fruits and sugar, the center of Italy anisette as well as dry fruits are used and in the north, buttery sweets with spices.
The Christmas sweets that are common to the country are Panettone, a soft and tall cake with raisins, candied fruits and chunks of sugar on top It originates from Milano. Pandoro, a very tall soft buttery cake served steamed and covered with confectioned sugar, comes from the city of Verona
And the last one is Panforte, almost a fruitcake, but unlike American fruitcakes it is flat, harder and less sweet than the American version. Without these…it isn’t Christmas, and this is only part of the sweets…and then there is the real food! The are hundreds of recipes from region to region. Appetizers and smoked salmon are now fashionable.. Soups like stracciatella or tortellini in a homemade beef broth, or pasticcio, the equivalent to American lasagna, and continue with meats boiled, roasted, chicken, turkey or roasted fish…
The setting for all these foods is usually the family home, although the Christmas tree has become a common home decoration, the nativity set is very common. Italians are mostly Catholics. Once upon a time before Santa, it was the baby Jesus that brought gifts, then as I like to say, baby Jesus got older and overweight started wearing red and became Santa!
The nice thing to do is to go church hopping to see the various nativity sets. In my city of Vicenza, in the Veneto Region, 17 of the city churches are having a nativity display and they are always beautiful. There are live pageants all around the country, more or less big or famous, but always beautiful.
People make it a point to go to midnight mass and drink hot chocolate after church.
Christmas is a family holiday , food and decorations are the trimmings for love, friendship and a way to carry forward traditions from yesterday to tomorrow.”
Buon Natale, Merry Christmas