Christmas in Italy: Culinary Traditions in Rome

A wonderful way to learn about a different culture is to experience their food with a cooking class that will open you up to new ways of cooking and making food. In the same spirit, enjoying a dinner with a real Italian family is a great way to learn about and experience a different way of life. In this guest blog post, Cecilia – who led cooking classes and private dinners for our travelers in Rome – talks about her own family traditions!

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“Finally Christmas is coming and every family is getting ready for this important day. Italian families have kept the old tradition of decorating their homes on the day of the Immaculate Conception, the 8th of December. The common tradition on this day is that each family member has a role in decorating the house. For example, someone concentrates on decorating the Christmas tree and someone else finds the perfect spot, usually in the living room, to place the nativity scene. This is a wonderful day, and if nothing else, an opportunity for the family to be together.

“Another important day is the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, when the preparations for the feast begin early in the morning. Traditionally, the Christmas Eve dinner consists solely of fish, whereas the Christmas lunch consists of meat. Our family has always followed this tradition on these two important days. In fact, last year we ate spaghetti with clams, fried fish, vegetables and the traditional ‘panettone.’ After dinner, usually after midnight, some families used to exchange Christmas gifts and the house is always full of happiness at this time.

“Christmas day is full of joy from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, and Christmas lunch is the most exciting time of the day. Last year we set the table with all of the Christmas decorations and as is traditional, we had a lunch based fully on meat. Usually the traditional lunch is tortellini with chicken broth, lamb and panettone.

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“However, last year we decided to make a little change to the traditional Christmas menu, and we had ravioli filled with potatoes and sausages, a risotto with chicory cream, whilst the second course remained the same. We finished with a special Christmas cake called struffolis that is famous in the Naples Region. When the feast is over, it is traditional to spend the afternoon playing board games and having fun with all our family and friends. In my family, for example, we like to exchange Christmas gifts after lunch.

“On the whole, Christmas for every Italian family is full of joy and glee and the most important thing is to be with all of your loved ones.”

Buon Natale! Merry Christmas everyone!

By Liz SanFilippo Hall

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