37: Christmas Traditions Throughout Italy

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Podcast | 0 comments

Merry Christmas! Since today is a special day, i thought I would share some Christmas traditions with you. Ready? Andiamo!

  1. No meat on Christmas eve. Not everyone does this, but lots of Italians opt for fish on Christmas eve. Most people think this is a religious requirement but it’s actually not, no where does the church mandate non-meat dishes for the vigilia – Christmas eve. it’s just become popular culture, and it’s ubiquitous everywhere. In Rome, they enjoy the local dish of pezzetti made of artichoke, zucchini and broccoli fried together – whereas in Naples, pasta with a seafood sauce is often served. Every region and city has its own specialty and tradition, even some families too.
  1. Midnight mass. All over Italy, cathedrals and churches offer messa  di mezzanotte or midnight mass. The biggest one of all though is at the Vatican. It’s run by the pope himself and televised so everyone can take part. 
  1. Hitting the slopes. While some Italians are being good catholics on Christmas Eve, others are hitting the slopes. In some cities in northern Italy people ski down the mountains at midnight, carrying torches as a festive celebration to ring in Christmas day.
  1. In various Italian cities, including Rome, you are likely to find men playing bagpipes in the squares across town. Known as ‘zampognari’, these musicians dress as shepherds; this is because, traditionally, it was the shepherds who made the journey from their mountain homes into the piazzas to earn some extra money by playing the bagpipes to anyone who would listen. This tradition came into being because of the story of the shepherds who visited Jesus on the night of his birth and played the bagpipes for him.
  1. Sweet treats. Both panettone and pandoro are two holiday dessert staples Hailing from Milan and Verona respectively, they are often enjoyed with prosecco as a dessert after dinner. Italians usually feel pretty strongly about one desert or the other and have their preferences on brand, style (chocolate, fruit, without dried fruit, almond etc) and personal family tradition surrounding them.

Allora ragazzi, vi auguro delle buone feste! Happy holidays! A presto!


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Ciao, I'm Rachel

I am obsessed with everything Italian! After years living in Italy, being married to an Italian, getting my Italian citezenship through my Pugliese lineage, a BA in Italian language and literature, then a MA in Italian Art History, I have lots of experience with this country! Hang out with me to learn more!