Christmas is approaching fast. So, this year I’ve decided to talk about Italian Christmas customs. Of course, some traditions are different from family to family but I think that many of the points I’m going to touch today are so general that are spread all over Italy.
As you know, the majority of Italians are Catholics, so Christmas is one of the most important celebrations for the entire country.
So, one of the first Italian Christmas customs that comes to my mind is the nativity scene. If you visit Italy in December, during Christmas period, you can surely see nativity scenes in many cities. Indeed, several cities and towns display big nativity scenes in squares, churches or famous streets.
Nativity scenes recall, of course, the story of Christ’s origins.
The simplest ones are composed of a cave or a hut and inside it there are Joseph, Mary, a cradle with baby Jesus, an ox and a donkey.
These are the essential elements of every Nativity scene. However, Italians like to add small statues representing people doing their everyday chores and jobs, angels, stars, etc. Some cities even organize a living nativity scene!
The most famous Italian city for nativity scenes is without any doubt Naples. Indeed, in this city there’s a very famous street called “via dei presepi” – nativity scenes’ street – where there are many traditional shops selling local crafts concerning the nativity scene. A place that is definitely worth a visit.
Tombola and Panettone
Tombola and panettone are two essential Italian Christmas customs. Tombola is a popular game that you play with the whole family and it’s very similar to bingo. If you win, you generally get small objects, coins or some sweets. In my family, for example, winning is not important because tombola for us is just another way to spend some time together while having fun and chat.
Panettone is a must-to-have for Christmas. Panettone is a typical sweet bread with a cupola shape. It’s usually 12cm high and it’s made with candied fruits and raisins and it’s served with cream with mascarpone cheese and sweet wines. Today you can find many other variants of panettone such as panettone with chocolate, panettone with pistachio cream, panettone with chestnut cream, and so on. If you taste panettone but you don’t like it, don’t worry, because for Christmas we also have another option: pandoro.
Pandoro is another typical sweet bread but this one is with a star section shape and it’s taller than Panettone. The dough used to prepare Pandoro is different, of course, than the one used to prepare Panettone and so is the taste. Pandoro is usually served with a sprinkle of icing sugar.
If you have the chance to taste both Panettone and Pandoro let me know which one you prefer in the comments below.
If you’re interested to learn more customs related to Christmas in Italy, you can read Christmas customs in Italy (Part 2).
Did you know these Italian Christmas customs? Do you celebrate Christmas? What are special traditions in your country?
Original image by Geralt