Christmas with Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca!
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 other entertainers. The difference is the guys think of us as their extended family. Why? Very simply 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 nine 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 celebrate 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, ravioli, 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 a recent 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.
Having said this, I will say, since Ignazio is vegan, there are certain parts of this meal he won’t eat. He will certainly eat the dessert! What I do know is by tradition, Ignazio will join his family to celebrate Christmas Day!
So what will Gianluca do on 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 new born 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!
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 style, gifts are 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!
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!
I would like to thank 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!
In closing, I would like to thank 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 and final uploads 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 will join me in wishing Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca and their families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with many Concerts!
Credit to owners of all photos.