Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and for the Christian people, it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Actually, Christmas has pagan origins: in ancient Rome, it was the day devoted to the adoration of the God Mithra, who represented the Sun. Then around the IV-V century AC, with the spread of Christianity, the cult of Mithra was replaced with that of Jesus. In our days when we are talking about Christmas we are referring to a period of time from 24 December to 6 January that includes Eve (December 24), Christmas (December 25), Boxing Day (December 26), Eve (31 December evening - January 1) and the Epiphany (January 6), that is generally represented by an ugly oldie, who during the night between 5 and Jan 6, enters the homes riding a broom, bringing presents and filling the stocking of good children with sweets and candies and with coal the stockings of the bad kids.

Christmas in Italy

During the period before the Christmas Holidays, we usually make the nativity scene and trim the tree. For tradition, both the nativity scene that the tree are decorated on December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception and put away the evening of January 6.

Even if many bad things are happening in Europe, as for example the Berlin terror attack, for families around the world, Christmas is the opportunity to meet each other, to eat together and to exchange gifts as a sign of mutual love. No exception for the Italian families whose love for good food during this celebration is manifested in the best possible way, tasting every kind of dishes in biggest portions. With no way to loose weight in this period of time, the menus can be varied, with old family recipes handed down from generation to generation that is very different from South to North Italy.

Christmas in a southern Italian family

In my specific case, having parents from southern Italy, the holiday menu is a mixture of southern recipes: the dinner on December 24 starts before 9 p.m. and it is full of fish dishes. The appetizer, that is very important in Italian lunches, can be made up of sandwiches with many types of patè (olives, artichokes, aubergines etc.), seafood, salads, artichokes and other vegetables in oil (in the best case of own production), and much more.

The first course is spaghetti with clams, then we will eat fried fish, roasted sea bass with potatoes and green salad. Sometimes we will also eat fried vegetables (artichokes, cauliflower, zucchini). For the lunch on Christmas Day, we are allowed to eat meat, so after the appetizers that are full of many types of prosciutto and salami we usually eat lasagna or cannelloni, while the second sees the arrival of a big plate of mixed grill or roasted meats.

On both days, we will end our dinner and our lunch with fruits, dried fruits, and sweets, drinking fine wine, red or white, and cafe.

'Panettone' and 'Pandoro' the typical Christmas sweets

Even if the menu can change from region to region, for sure on all the Italian tables you will find "panettone", "pandoro" and "nougat". "Panettone" and "Pandoro" are Christmas sweets. "Panettone", that is a typical sweet from Milan, has inside raisins and candied fruit. Those who do not like these ingredients can eat "Pandoro", that is from Verona, made with a soft and golden brown dough, served with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. "Nougat", the most typical Christmas cakes, is made with honey, almonds and nuts and you can find it with or without chocolate.

In conclusion, beware the imitations for not all that comes from the various online food networks is made in Italy and the most of the time it is only a surrogate of the true Italian Christmas tradition.

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