Christmas with Our Italian Family By Susan

Every Saturday morning, I sit at my desk and think about what I will write about this week! Since we’re closing in on Christmas, I thought maybe I should start a little earlier this week!
My first thought was last year’s Christmas message was amazing! Not because I wrote it but because of the people who helped me write it! Two wonderful friends! Our special little nonna, Maura Pucci and Giovanni Granaro local historian and my go to man in Naro. Over ten thousand fans responded to the story!  It gave us a look at the different Italian traditions and an insight into our guy’s Christmas. So, I thought maybe I should republish the article but with a few new and interesting facts added.
But before we relive the story let me tell you what the story told us about each of the guys. It showed their different traditions based on the region they came from but, they do have one tradition in common and they share that tradition with Italians all over the world. It is the Feast of Seven Fishes that is celebrated on Christmas Eve. In Italy, the meal is known as Festa Dei Sette Pesci (the Feast of Seven Fish), or, more simply, La Vigilia. Now let me add some say the meal should include twelve fish. Why? Seven fish for the seven days it took to create the world or twelve fish for the twelve apostles. The number of fish is not as important as the feast, or La Vigilia, itself.  This is a tradition that goes back to ancient times in the Church. Before a great feast day, it was important to fast to prepare for the feast. So, everyone abstained from meat, thus everyone ate fish.
In the early 1900’s when Italian immigrants came to America, they brought this tradition with them. This allowed them to rekindle the old country’s Christmas Eve tradition so they would feel close to their homes and the families they left behind. Today, it’s considered one of the oldest Italian traditions because most Italians still keep the tradition! I certainly do!

So, without further ado, let’s join Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca for Christmas with Our Italian Family
Yes, Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca are our family! Why do I call them family? We’re their fans, yes but, we are more than fans. We certainly do all the things that fans do but it goes deeper than that because our guys are different than any other entertainers. The difference is the guys think of us as their extended family because they grew up with us. They spend more time with us than they do with their families. And they show us their love in everything they do. Think of how they treat us! When you meet them, they embrace you. Most entertainers just want your praise and accolades. Not our guys! They want to know about us! They ask about our lives and our families. They listen to us and do things to please us. And think about how you spent your last twenty-one months listening to their music and feeling secure with every song! So, what is family? Family are the people who are there when you need them. When you’re sad you can always feel their love and their encouragement! Family is not just blood it’s the people who are there for us!
So, let’s take a look at how our Italian family spends their Christmas.
The Christmas season starts in Italy on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary which is also a holiday in Italy. This is the day that many Italians put up their Christmas trees and the cities light up their streets with colored lights. Why? Because Mary is the mother of the Light, Jesus! But there are other traditions that are celebrated on this day!
Let’s go to Naro, Piero’s city, to see how they open the Christmas season.
Every year, on the 7th, 8th and 9th of December, every inhabitant in Naro stocks up on muffuletti. Muffuletti is a bread which is stuffed with meat and vegetables. Some people go to their local baker to buy them, and some people prepare them at home. The tradition is linked to religion. Naro’s sandwiches are blessed and distributed in Churches at the end of the Mass on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. The bakers donate the muffuletti to the Churches as a gesture of generosity towards their fellow countrymen but, above all, of love towards “a bedda matri ‘Mmaculata”, the Most Holy Immaculate.
During the month of December, the Christmas markets are held in Naro. The Fair is set up inside the cloister of the Town Hall. Many people go to the Franciscan cloister where, every evening, to the delight of the children, there is a special snowfall that whitens the baroque courtyard. On the final evening there is a concert of Sicilian folk music, and an award is given for the best photo taken at the large Christmas tree in Piazza Garibaldi.
During this magical period the streets are colored by many Christmas lights, and everyone visits the living nativity scene of Borgo Castello. There is Mass on Christmas Eve and between hugs, kisses and best wishes there are a thousand good intentions. And then, on Christmas day, the family gathers together for a dinner laden with many local delicacies.
And what would Piero do on Christmas day? Most likely, he will walk around Naro and visit some older people and his friends. He certainly would have decorated his home so I’m sure he will make a video for all of us to see. He will most likely sing at the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass. And I’m sure he will spend time singing with his grandfather, Pietro. Most importantly, he will spend the day with his family!
Christmas in Bologna! How does Ignazio celebrate Christmas?
Unlike Piero and Gianluca, Ignazio and his family live in a big city and like cities in America there are many events.
The Christmas tradition in Bologna has deep roots. The Bolognese Nativity Scene (Presepe) goes back to the Middle Ages. The tradition of the Presepe dates back to the 13th century and one of the oldest Presepe in the world is preserved in Bologna. What makes the Bolognese Nativity different? It is life size and includes clothes that are different from the traditional Neapolitan style. They are dressed in a medieval style. In Porretta Terme in the Emilian Apennines another Presepe which is one of the oldest Presepe in the world is kept in the church of Capugnano.
I’m sure Ignazio will visit the Christmas Tree in Piazza Nettuno. It is a Bolognese tradition. The beautiful tree is a welcoming and bright place to meet friends and feel the warmth of Christmas.
So, what will Ignazio’s family eat on Christmas? I’m sure on Christmas Eve there will be fish on the table. This is the tradition in every Italian house on “La Vigilia,” Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, there is another tradition. Lunch is the main meal and Pasta in brodo (pasta in broth) will certainly be served. In Bologna, it’s all about meat-filled tortellini in capon broth. These, small, Tortellini, are filled with a mixture of meat, mortadella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese but you will find in Bologna every family has its secret ingredient for them. You’ll recall in an interview Ignazio mentioned his family buying Tortellini every Sunday.
The soup will most likely be followed by a roast and the meal will end with a traditional dessert like Certosino (or Pan speziale) which is made with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate and candied fruits. The recipe has its origin in the Middle Ages where Certosino was produced by pharmacists and later by Certosini Friars. Certosino is very popular in Bologna.
I know the part of the meal that Ignazio will like the best is the dessert! A dessert he will share with his family to celebrate Christmas Day!
There is one Sicilian tradition that I did not talk about last year and since we have two Sicilian men in the group, I think it is important to include it in the article.
For many in Sicily, the Christmas season starts on the Feast of Santa Lucia. In some regions of Sicily, the feast day is celebrated with Cuccia. The word itself is Sicilian. Cuccìa is typically made with wheat berries, ricotta and sugar. How did this tradition come to be?
In the winter of 1646, Sicily was undergoing a terrible famine. People were dying of hunger after a massive crop failure. The people of Palermo did the only thing they could in the circumstances: they prayed. And then on the morning of December 13th a ship full of grain arrived in Palermo harbor with enough grain to feed the whole city. Rather than wait to have the grain milled into flour to make bread, the hungry people boiled and ate the grain to satisfy their hunger and save their lives. The people were convinced that Santa Lucia (St. Lucy), Sicily’s most important saint had saved the city, since the grain arrived on her feast day.
I’m not sure if Piero and Ignazio’s family make Cuccia or eat it but I’m sure they know the tradition.
So, now let’s talk about Gianluca’s Christmas!
A Montepagano tradition is the Nativity scene. At the end of the last century a famous living Nativity play was started in Montepagano which is a real theatrical performance, with a director and a narrator.
In the Abruzzi region, there is a tradition that bagpipers, so called zampognari come into the towns and play their flutes and bagpipes for the people. They symbolize the shepherds who come in search of the newborn baby, Jesus. The bagpipers were once shepherds, today they are musicians who walk the streets of the cities, playing Christmas music. Often, they are in pairs, and one plays the zampognari (bagpipe) and the other the ciaramella (which is similar to a small piccolo).
For certain Gianluca will celebrate December 24th, Christmas Eve with a meal of fish including shellfish because he lives by the sea. As far as food traditions are concerned, on Christmas Day, the typical dish of the whole region of Abruzzo is spaghetti alla chitarra (which is prepared on a particular instrument called a guitar, because it is made of wood with metal strings) but most likely Gianluca will eat Lasagna. The second course will be arrosticini, which are pieces of meat, traditionally lamb, strung on long sticks, similar to a kebab. And for dessert, they will most likely have the traditional Christmas cake, Panettone.
Gianluca will surely spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his family including his Grandpa Ernesto!
As you know my mother is Abruzzese and I must say, Gianluca’s Christmas is very similar my Christmas.

If you’re wondering where Santa Claus is, in Italy he is known as “Babbo Natale,” Father Christmas, who brings presents to children on Christmas Eve but, in true Italian tradition, gifts were exchanged on January 6th the day of Epiphany when La Befana comes to Italian homes in search of the Christ Child and leaves gifts for the children. This is a tradition that is celebrated in the central regions of Italy.  La Befana is an old woman, with a hooked nose, badly dressed, with a handkerchief on her head, grumpy but good, she is not a witch. On January 6th, riding through the sky, flying on a broom, La Befana lands on the roofs, enters the houses from the chimneys and descends from the fireplace, leaving gifts and sweets in the big socks that the children place in front of the fireplace. If they were good, they get sweets. If they were bad, she leaves coal in the form of a sweet black candy. I’m sure there will be many sweets for Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca! No coal for our guys!
I would like to mention an important member of Il Volo’s family. Michele Torpedine!  His family is originally from the region of Puglia. He moved to Bologna when he was twelve years old. So, he will celebrate Christmas with his family and the celebration would be similar to Ignazio’s!
Again, I would like to thank the two people who contributed to this Christmas story. Maura Pucci and Giovanni Granaro. Their knowledge of the regions of Montepagano and Naro and the different Christmas traditions made this story come to life!
         Susan                                          Daniela                          Pat
In closing, I would like to thank my team at Flight Crew! The two ladies who make all my stories come to life! Daniela Perani (a/k/a Sherlock Holmes) who is my second pair of eyes and provides all the photos and videos for my stories and Patricia Ward who does the layouts for the stories.
I want to wish all of my Christian friends a Merry Christmas and all my Jewish friends a Happy Chanukah! And all my other friends, All the Happiness and Joy of the Season!

And finally, I’m sure you would love to join me in wishing Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca and their families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with many Concerts!

Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
If you would like to share a story with me, please email:  susan.flightcrew@yahoo.com
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at www.ilvoloflightcrw.com

 

27 thoughts on “Christmas with Our Italian Family By Susan”

  1. Thank you for all of your hard work bringing us these wonderful stories about these terrific men. Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year! Alice E.

  2. This is a wonderful addition to my Christmas! Your posts have brightened my entire year. I’m so grateful for all you do to keep us up to date with our guys. Merry Christmas to you!

  3. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and all the Ilvolo family. This is my first Christmas in your wonderful world of music and so I very much appreciated your repeating this story!

  4. Love your traditions and hearing obout them. In Australia Christmas is celebrated in our hottest month. Our Christmas tree is usually put up on 1st December homes are decorated with many lights and Christmas scenes in the front of homes entire streets are decorated and the week before Christmas they become a family tradition to drive around towns to see the amazing homes, Christmas Eve depending on religion go to midnight mass or church Christmas morning. Is when presents are exchanged friends and family drop in throughout the day. Lunch is either seafood or a traditional roast with 5 or so meats followed by a rich fruit pudding, Dinner is cold meats seafood and salads. With such a multicultural population there are many varied traditions but it’s always family and friends wether at a home or park or the beach. My self as with many others volenteer to make Christmas lunch to those less fortunate at a local council hall, the community donate all the food and gifts. For me I have always had family and friends so many don’t just seeing joy on their faces that someone cares enough to give up a few hours of their Christmas Day is something that is the Christmas spirit. So from Australia have a safe and blessed Christmas to all

    1. Thank you so much, Ros for telling us how you spend Christmas in Australia. I love when people share their holiday traditions. From New York to Australia, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Holy New Year!

  5. Susan, I want to give my thanks to you for this very interesting article, both informative and, as usual, well written. It makes me want to hop on a plane and head for Italia!!

    Although I had a bit of a hard time with the coloured lettering, I persevered and was rewarded by your exceptionally fine story of how the Christmas season is celebrated in Italy, and why. Also the descriptions of the food didn’t hurt, either!

    Years ago when my family were entertainers, we sang Santa Lucia, (yes, in Italian) and always thought it was such a beautiful song and story.

    Thanks again and Best Wishes for Christmas and may our New Year bring Health and Happiness to everyone!
    Love, Dolores

  6. Thank you never sounds enough, but truly, from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate all of your hard work in bringing us great articles about “our boys”. I wish you and your colleagues a very Happy Festive Season from 🇬🇧🇬🇧 🎄🎉🎈🎄🎉🎈

  7. Thank you so much for all your good work and all the interesting information. Listening once more to our young men’s performance last year in Piazza San Pietro, I couldn’t help finding them totally sublime. Thank you for reminding me. Merry Christmas to you and all your near and dear.

  8. What a lovely heart warming article Susan. It is lovely to hear what Christmas is like in Italy, the food that is eaten and other traditions.

    One thing that has intrigued me is when did Christmas trees first appear in Italy? I know ours were supposed to have come to the UK from Germany via Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. Having said that, I gather we have had some sort of Christmas tree since pre Roman times.

    We always have fish on Christmas Eve, no idea why, just one of those things. Not 12 different ones of course, or even seven, there are only two of us! The last time we had turkey for Christmas lunch it took us five days to eat the thing, it was only a little one, as in a fraction over 7lb. These days we usually have a chicken breast, even that lasts for three meals, plus some for Inky of course.

    As a child I used to go to my grandma’s church, well chapel actually, she was Methodist. It was only a ten minute walk away, and the streets were safer in those days. Since moving out into the country when I married, church has been somewhat of a none event at Christmas as the idea of dark country roads is not the safest place to be. The last two years have seen Covid rear its ugly head, so our local(ish) church has been closed.

    Christmas Day is always a quiet day for us, even more so last year and this year. With Kate being a teacher and her husband also working at a college, we have to be extra careful, especially as Kate seems somewhat prone to catching anything that happens to be passing.

    Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo 2022 I hope I have got that correct.

    Roz 😉

  9. It has been a couple of years since I cooked a turkey for my son and daughter. The darned things are too heavy and it is hard for me to stoop to put the thing in the oven.

    This year my son, Ian, said he would cook the bird if his sister, Laurie, and I did the veggies and dressing. It should be interesting as I think it is his first attempt at a turkey, although he is a pretty good at making spaghetti sauce! As he lives nearly two hours away I’m not sure that there might be some salmonella along with the turkey!!

    He is alone, my daughter’s husband died four years ago and I’ve been on my own since my last husband, David, passed twelve years ago. t, I’ve invited my young neighbour up the street who has been a widower for the past three years. It’s good for us to get together and have some “family” time, so it’s not the gathering of the lonely.

    All the best again, Dolores.

  10. Susan, I don’t know how you do it but a writer has magic in her key strokes on the computer! Thanks for the research as well as desire (heart) to open our world to this special season in Italy! Whatever you write about our Ignazio, Gianluca and Piero is eagerly awaited and read with anticipation at every line. Grazie, thank you!
    Hugs! Merry Christmas to you all! Buon Natale!

  11. As always you have interesting things to tell us that otherwise we would never know. It was so interesting to know how each of our boys celebrate Christmas. Here’s wishing you three ladies that do all the work to bring us such news of our boys and the boys themselves a Very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

  12. Such a beautifully written insight into these three young men and their souls. Wonderful young men, a Credit to Italy and their families. Thank you three ladies for bringing such wonderful reflections of Il Volo. You are appreciated!

  13. Thanks for that very interesting article. Want to wish all the Crew and fans a Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Certainly hope 2022 will be better for all. Stay safe. Thank you guys for all your hard work, it is so appreciated.

  14. Just read Susan’s “Christmas with Our Italian Family. Thanks so much for educating me as to how an Italian Christmas is celebrated; I had no idea so many amazing traditions were observed and that so much food was involved! Also, beautiful old “tymey-tyme” decorations. And so nice to see a photo of you, Daniela and Pat.
    Still worried about COVID – over 9,000 new cases today in Quebec (pop, 8,600,000+). They may survive it but for any of the guys to have trouble breathing – long or short term – from COVID would be devastating. Here’s hoping they are all safe and isolating with their families. Happy Holidays to you and everyone and I wish you all a healthy 2022.

  15. Your article was so informative about Italy and their customs. Thank You. I brought back many memories long forgotten. I am of Polish decent. We too celebrated on the 24 with family mostly. We ate 12 dishes, no meat, fish and veggies to celebrate the 12 apostles after the first star appeared in the sky and we ‘broke bread’ with all individuals there. We used a wafer called an oplatek and wished each other well for the new year. The celebration was called Wigilia. Sometimes an extra plate was set at the table in case of a needy person or a surprise guest arrived. Now family is spread all over the country so we rarely can get together, very nice when it happens.

    Best wishes to all. Have a safe holiday, we do not want to cancel the 2022 tour. I am very excited and have two sets of tickets to see Il Volo. j

  16. I really enjoyed your stories of Christmas. It’s nice to know how the boys celebrate theirs. My mother was married to an Italian with a large family. All were born here but they carried on Italian traditions from their families. I loved going to their houses at any time of year. Christmas I do remember fish being served. I did not like fish! Didn’t even like the smell of it. There was always some kind of Pasta dish too. I think that’s where I got my love of pasta from. It’s still my favorite dish & I’m in my 70s. It’s also where I got my love for Italian people. So warm, kind, gentle loving people. Yes, they were loud at times too. They were Italian after all! Found my love for Italian music then also, but nobody sings like IlVolo. My favorite & only music I listen to.

  17. Thanks, Susan, for the photos of you, Daniela and Patti. I’ve put them in my Il Volo folder on my computer, so you are there forever!!

    I couldn’t make out what Ignazio is holding in his arms/hands. Any ideas?

  18. Thank you sharing all of these wonderful traditions of Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca. I read your post on Christmas Eve here in America. I wish you very bleassed Christmas full of love and peace. Please stay healthy and safe.

    1. 👸👸💝💝💝🎅🎅🌟🌟🌟🎄🎄🎄⛄⛄⛄❄❄❄🙏🙏🙏🎁🎁🎁🎶🎶🎶🤗🤗🤗Dear Susan, Daniela and Pat, first of all I wish you a blessed, peaceful and very Merry Christmas in health and safety for you and your families and loved ones filled with only happyness and joy – then let me use tgis opportunity to thank you for your very intersting, entertaining informations, pictures and videos of our guys-I appriciate your monthly mails, which you are sending me and am happy to receive it also in 2022 – please stay all safe and healthy and have a very happy and successful New Year – your friend from Munich, Margareta Kiss

  19. Thank you Susan and also Maura and Giovanni for letting us know how Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca and their families may celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It’s lovely that these traditions continue. I know my family look forward to certain dishes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as attending mass in our beautifully decorated church. I love seeing the video of Il Volo singing in St. Peter’s Square. It was very nice to see the photos of you, Daniela and Pat and thank you for all you do.

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