In the previous blogpost, we took a look at some main Greek traditions, foods and treats for the Christmas season. The Italian version of the holiday season is also rich in traditions and delightful foods. As the whole season holds importance for Italians, they tend not to wish you Merry Christmas, but “Buone Feste”, aka happy holidays. The festive season in Italy lasts longer than in other countries, beginning on December the 8th, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ending on the Epiphany, January the 6th. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by Catholic Christians, to honor Virgin Mary’s without- sin- conception.
On Christmas Eve Italians usually choose to avoid meat, and eat seafood instead, before going to the Midnight Mass service. When they return to their homes, they often take a bite of the popular Italian cake, “Panettone”, a Milanese pastry that contains dry fruits and is often accompanied by a hot chocolate drink. “Pandoro”, a traditional pastry in Verona, is similar to Panettone, although it has a slightly different texture and it does not include candied fruits. “Struffoli” are bubble-like treats with honey and sprinkled colors, that are served on Christmas day. On this day, it is also common for Northern Italians to ski down the mountains and enjoy a hot drink, like a Bombardino!
On New Year’s, Italians have the tradition of wearing red underwear for good luck, and eating cotechino, a pork sausage, with lentils and polenta. Also, they exchange treats and watch the fireworks. Finally, the original Christmas figure in Italy is “La Befana”, a kind witch with a role similar to Santa Claus’s, that leaves presents and pretty treats to the good children, but coal or dark treats to the bad children, on January 6th. Some Italians leave the so-called Befana cake for the witch, that traditionally has cornmeal, fruits, and aromatic spices. However, most usually, panettone is the favorite treat on this day as well, and Italians end their 1-month celebrations in a sweet and cozy way!