CHRISTMAS WITH OUR ITALIAN FAMILY 2022 BY SUSAN

Seems hard to believe that it’s Christmas again! The years are just flying by.  We left all the bad behind and now we are picking up the pieces in a big way. It’s all coming together. Our guys are back at their concerts, but they are also giving us special moments along the way. Above all, they gave us a special Christmas treat. Their beautiful new Christmas song, “Happy Xmas.”

Every week when I sit down to write my stories, I look to the past to find stories of interest. Sometimes they’re new but mostly they’re old. Stories you’ve heard time and again because our guys for all their popularity and immense fame are really quite young. There are so many stories that have to be written over the next fifty years. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say we will be around to see the end of their story but no, most of us will be long gone before their story ends. We’ll have to watch the end unfold from above! But how fortunate we are that we have seen the beginning of their beautiful story.

Among their beautiful stories are their traditional Christmases. In some cases, I have their actual Christmas traditions but in most it’s more about the tradition in their region of Italy.
Before I begin, I would like to talk a minute about La Vigilia. La Vigilia is the Italian traditional Christmas Eve dinner. This dinner consists of fish. Why? Because Italy is a primarily Catholic country and Christmas Eve, up until Vatican II, was always a day of fast to prepare for the coming of Christ. So, we only eat fish.

So, what is this Vigilia? This is a tradition that started in southern Italy in the regions of Sicily, Calabria and parts of Campania. In these regions, people who live beside the sea are primarily fishermen, and they live off the sea. So, on the eve they not only celebrate the coming of Christ, but they also thank the Lord for the abundance of fish they received from the sea which sustains their families year-round.
In the early 1900’s when Italian immigrants came to America, they brought this tradition with them, and the next generation added to this tradition by celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fish. The number seven is symbolic in the Roman Catholic Church. It represents the seven days of creation, the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, etc.
By continuing La Vigilia in America, it allowed the immigrants 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!
Now, let’s step back into the past to see how our guys celebrate Christmas.
No need to update this story, it doesn’t change. Tradition is tradition! Two years ago, two people helped me write this story so I decided that I would not change anything in it. It turned out because of them the Christmas message was amazing! The two wonderful friends who helped me were 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 am republishing the article with a few new and interesting facts added.
This story talks about the tradition that each guy has on Christmas. Each tradition is different depending on what region they come from but, they do have one tradition in common and they share that tradition with Italians all over the world. It is La Vigilia which I already have mentioned.

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 pandemic 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 (December 8th) 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, Mary.

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. In the past, Piero has sung with his grandfather, Pietro. This year will certainly be a sad remembrance but also a beautiful remembrance of the man who was so important to Piero and to his career. Piero will surely remember his grandfather when he spends Christmas 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 would like to talk about 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!

This is my favorite Christmas Concert!

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 still provides many of the photos, videos and English translations for my stories and Patricia Ward who edits all of my 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 and special surprises for us!

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
Credits to owners of photos and videos

 

 

32 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS WITH OUR ITALIAN FAMILY 2022 BY SUSAN”

  1. Susan. Thank you so much for this beautiful story Our guys value our traditions and hopefully their younger generation fans will continue to keep them alive as we do. Merry Christmas to you and yours ❤️

  2. Thank you, Susan. Being Italian, my family from the Bari region, we also do La Virgilia each Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition I passed on to my children, and I hope they will teach their children -thank you for all the wonderful stories, I love reading about their lives. Buon Natale!🎅🎄😘

  3. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a healthy, peaceful New Year !
    Thank you for all you do.
    With appreciation.

  4. I wish you all a Blessed and Merry Christmas and I thank you for your wonderful stories. This is as close to Italy as I will ever get and your stories make me feel as if Ive been there for a wonderful visit!!

  5. Susan, you make it all sound so wonderful at Christmas time, I want to get on a plane and join our Italian families in their traditions. To all the Il Volovers and you, Daniela and Patti, I wish only the best now and in the future. Hugs, Dol

  6. Merry Christmas everyone. We wish we could celebrate in Italy. Thank you for all your beautiful posts to keep us informed.

  7. Olá Susan! Sou brasileira e sigo il volo a menos de um ano. Estou cada vez mais encantada com eles e ansiosa para ve-los, em março, no concerto de Curitiba – Brasil. Obrigada pelas historias e videos dos rapazes. Desejo um Feliz Natal a todos.!
    Dalva Nunes

  8. Thank you Susan for this wonderful Christmas message. I too celebrate La Vigilia with the Feast of the Seven Fish. Enjoy your delicious meal and have a very blessed and merry Christmas.

  9. Thanks for recounting the beautiful Italian Christmas traditions, Susan. Yes, it is hard to believe it’s Christmas again – seems like just yesterday when Ignazio was off to Brazil with his mother and sister to spend the holiday with the (then) love of his life… How time flies! Merry Christmas and thanks for all your, Pat’s and Daniela’s posts through the year.

  10. Thank you, Susan, for this wonderful Italian Christmas message. So interesting to read about the food of the different regions & the Christmas traditions, especially our guys.
    Merry Christmas Susan, Daniela and Pat; and thank you for all these great stories.

  11. Thank you profoundly for sharing the rich cultural history of Christmas in Italy!! – it is not only a very beautiful country – the traditions are stunning – I appreciate so much the lovely cultures of other countries – I would like to at this point say – have a great Christmas to you Susan – Daniela & Pat – three very warm & lovely ladies – may the force be with you over the Christmas period & much love to Piero – Ignazio & Gianluca -rest easy.

  12. Thank you Susan, love hearing all the tidbits about our favorite guys. My husband was Sicilian/Napeladon and Christmas Eve has always been fish, not necessarily 7 although my daughter does make Chippino on Christmas Eve, my younger one does nudies in sage butter. Christmas Day will be eggplant parm, ravioli (used to make our own but Arthur Ave is as good), roast, fish, etc. Cookies are favorite dessert with fruit,nuts, dates and figs. We’ve eliminated cakes and pies as they are too much! My granddaughters and I will start the cookies tomorrow…favorites are biscotti and pineolis!
    I wish you, Daniela and Pat and your families all a Blessed Christmas and happy, healthy, safe New Year. To Gianluca, Piero and Ignazio and management and all their families and friends the same, with my love to all of you and all their multitude of fans. Merry Christmas as we all proceed with our own traditions. Not to forget those of us who celebrate Hanukkah and many other celebrations. God Bless, Carol❤️🤗😘🎄✝️🕎✡️☪️🕉☮️

    1. Merry Christmas my friend! I was at Arthur Ave. last Friday with Dorothy and Antoinette! Anything Italian can be bought there! Even the things you can’t get elsewhere!

  13. Thank you Susan for this article- always love to read about the different traditions! Italy is truly an amazing country and such unique history for the different regions! I am very much enjoying being on this “trip” with the guys!🥰
    Wishing you and all the people at FlightCrew a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Will be looking forward to the next article! Much love,
    Sanna

  14. Thank you ladies so much for sharing this beautiful music and traditions. So beautifully written with lovely photos and videos. You never disappoint. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very wonderful new year full of peace and happiness. Love to you all xoxo ❤️❤️❤️

  15. Thank you for this lovely article Susan. It is interesting to note how different an Italian Christmas is to what we have in the UK, yet there are similarities too.

    I find the sweets/coal of particular interest as we were discussing that very thing at our needle & natter meal last Tuesday. One of the ladies was saying that she would have been quite happy to receive coal as at least it meant they could keep warm. That has particular relevance this winter due to the ever increasing cost of domestic fuel.

    One thing I have often wondered is the tradition of Christmas trees in Italy. They were first brought to the UK from Germany by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband in the 19th century. How long have they been popular in Italy, or even the rest of the world for that matter?

    Of course in those days they were real trees, something that isn’t as popular as they once were. This is especially so among the great houses (Hampton Court, etc) due to the possible infestation of bugs and other unwanted creatures. Even the berries are removed from the holly and replaced by plastic.

    My holly bush, the first time she has had a significant number of berries, has been stripped clean by the birds this year. We had a really cold spell recently, so the birds have had a feast with the berries on not only the holly, but also the pyracantha’s, and even the cotoneaster. Not that I can complain about the holly and cotoneaster as if it hadn’t been for the birds, we wouldn’t have had either! Word spreads among the plant life, try Walters Towers, they will give you a good home! 😉

    Roz

  16. Ooops, knew I had forgotten something. Wishing everyone at The Flight Crew Un felice Natale e un benedetto 2023. Come dice la canzone, rendiamolo bello, senza alcun timore.

    Which I hope in English is A merry Christmas and a blessed 2023. As the song says, let’s make it beautiful, without any fear.

    Roz

  17. Susan, this was a very informative story. Not being Italian I knew some of the traditions but actually very little or perhaps very few of the various Traditions. It was extremely interesting. Thank you!

  18. Wishing all of you at Flight Crew a very Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year. Thank you all for keeping us informed and all the wonderful stories you publish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Piero, Gianluca and Ignazio.

  19. Wishing you all at Flight Crew a very Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year. Thanks to all of you for the wonderful job that you do keeping us informed concerning the guys. Would like to wish Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca continued success in 2023 and a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year

    1. The same wishes to you and yours and to all Flight Crew fans.

      This has been some year for Il Volo, I hope that they continue to create beautiful music that charms us all.

      Happy Christmas to everyone, and may the new year bring the peace we all so desperately want and need.

      Roz

  20. As I said last year my Christmas eve is the 7 fishes. Christmas day always dfferent. But I just want to say to all merry Christmas happy and healthy new year to all. And TY for all you do all year long 🎄🤶love and hugs 💋💋💋💋

  21. Thank you Susan again for another great read it is nice to learn about how different countries celebrate Xmas ,i hope the guys enjoy the short time they have with thier families they dont get much family time ,so now i wish you Buon Natale and a great New Year x

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