On 24th December at midnight, in the Roman Catholic churches, is held a special Midnight Christmas Mass. Many churches would display a Nativity Scene often with very ancient and precious little statues.
As well, on 24th December it is tradition to have at home a ‘Cena di Magro’ (a dinner with no meat, normally soup and fish or vegetable dishes) quite different from the big lunch of the 25th when, according to different regional traditions, you will have ravioli or cannelloni or tortellini and lasagne al forno with different type of sauces (all kinds of stuffed pasta) usually proceeded by various antipasti like row and cooked ham, salame, and soppressata, coppa and speck, such a great regional variety that it is impossible to mention everything …. to the above you add vegetables preserved under oil or vinegar like mushrooms, little pickled onions, roasted eggplants and peppers, and all kind of olives, green or black, big and small ones, seasoned or not.
It must be said that each Italian region has, besides the more common dishes, special local traditional recipes, like polenta with salsiccia, or pizzoccheri, risotto and canederli, lasagne al pesto , tortelli di zucca (type of ravioli filled with pumpkin pulp and amaretti crumbles) in northern Italy, cappelletti or fettuccine and ragu bolognese more in the central regions, to the above you just add more fish recipes such as typical Capitone (European Eel) popular in southern Italy.
The second course can be roasted chicken or boiled stuffed capon, roasted meat or fish, and savory tarts filled with artichokes or other greens, all served with salad and/or cooked vegetables, again according to local products/traditions and furthermore…how to forget cheese! But I will not even try to quote here all the various regional types of cheese, or wines, as all this would need a whole new chapter.
Panettone is the classical Christmas dessert but you also have the well known Tiramisu, different kinds of Torrone, Cannoli Siciliani, Monte Bianco cake, you can also enjoy the very ancient recipes like Castagnaccio which is a plain chestnuts flour cake, typical of the central regions seasoned with pines nuts and dried little raisins often sprinkled with herbs like rosemary or fennel seeds, but also the typical Panforte of Siena and I Buccellati in Sicily or Parrozzo cake in Abruzzo, and so many more! Of course these mentioned are just a hint as for each region the choice is really wide.
Then you will have dried fruits like figs – natural or stuffed with walnuts or covered with chocolate – apricots, prunes, cherries, and all kinds of nuts like hazelnuts from Piemonte, almonds from Sicily and the famous Bronte pistachios.
Bits and Pieces on Christmas Traditions in Italy by mn – Part II
Pictures by mn
* If you are interested search torrone candy. mfa