Christmas, or Natale, is just as celebrated – if not more so – in Italy as it is here in North America. Every year from December 24th to January 6th, Italians from every region gather around dining room tables with family and friends to enjoy plentiful amount of Italian food. It’s at time when no matter how scattered, families are reunited around the table (or tavola). As you might be aware, Italian restaurants and Italian food take tradition seriously and often times the recipes and the dishes served have been passed down from generation to generation. During the holidays, this principle is as prominent as ever as rituals and recipes come together to create a number of elaborate meals. Here are a few of the most common Italian feasts during the holidays and the food one might find at Italian restaurants and dinner tables.
Christmas Eve Dinner (La Vigilia Napoletana)
Christmas Eve dinner in Italy is traditionally served with no meat and is instead heavily balanced around several types of seafood. The number of fishes served is usually seven, but can vary depending on the region. An antipasti dish you might find on La Vigilla Napoletana menu and in Italian restaurants might be Salmone Affumicato.
Christmas Day Lunch
Christmas day lunch is considered by many Italians as one of the most important holiday meals. It is often attended by so many that the relative with the biggest table is left to host. In the southern regions of Italy, a classic antipasti is usually proceeded by a baked pasta (or pasta al forno). In the northern regions, lasagna is more common. After the pasta dish follows a secondi meat course. A classic meat course one might find in Italian restaurants is Pollo Moina.
December 26th Lunch (Santo Stefano)
While this is another important meal, it is usually less elaborate than what was served the previous day, and will host more distant relatives and friends. Common dishes during this lunch can include different kinds of antipasti amongst others.
In addition to these meals, on New Year’s Eve many Italians gather for the feast of San Silvestro and the holiday concludes in January with Le Befana Dinner. Whether it’s at Italian restaurants or Nonna’s table, Natale meals are about more than just the food. They’re about bringing people together, about reviving old traditions and making new memories. Whether you’ll be eating Italian food or a traditional turkey and stuffing spread, what matters the most is being surrounded by family, friends and loved ones – the best presents a person can receive.