Ever Wondered What Christmas in Italy Looks Like?
While we LOVE Christmas in Scotland, we thought we’d return to our Italian roots to take a little look at how Christmas is celebrated, Sugo style.
Something Scotland and Italy can most definitely agree on is that Christmas is a BIG deal. It is never too early to get those lights strung and trees drowned in decorations ASAP.
That said, in Scotland, some Scrooges like to throw a spanner in the works with the pre-historic controversial debate - “Is it too early to put up the decorations?”
In Italy, it’s straight-forward. Christmas trees, lights, the full shabang start going up in Italian homes and towns on December 8th , ready to be enjoyed for almost a whole month until 6th January.
A tea towel wrapped around your head, the proudest Shepherd of all, belting out “Away in a Manger”, fully aware that you have begun your path to stardom. This may seem ever so familiar for some of you.
While in Scotland the annual nativity play is of symbolic importance, Italians prefer to save a good part of their dignity and instead take great pride in their nativity scenes.
Called presepi, setting up your traditional nativity scene is an absolute must. Naples is world famous for its Presepe Napoletano meaning Neapolitan cribs, with the first crib scene in this city thought to go back to 1025! Neapolitan nativity scenes are particularly special for their inclusion of extra figures such as houses, food and waterfalls, and is not surprisingly home to the largest nativity scene in the world.
Is that... bagpipes we hear playing in the distance?
Bagpipes on Italian piazzas may seem a foreign thought but Zampognari, the Italian take on the beloved Scottish instrument, are a long-running festive sound of the Italian Christmas.
Originally played by Shepherds who came down from the hills to celebrate the festive season with their families, the tradition has continued into the present day.
Sporting the traditional outfit of sheepskin vests and leather breeches, the Zampognari style bagpipe players parade through different locations to pipe festive tunes.
Type this into YouTube and thank us later.
For this time of year only, Italians press pause on silky plates of pasta and make room for other traditional festive foods.
On Christmas Eve, La Vigilia, a meatless dinner is served often referred to as “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”. Italians can eat up to as many as 9 traditional fish dishes! That’s a whole lotta fish.
More importantly, Italians love their desserts! It’s no wonder food items are the most popular gift given in Italy.
Panettone is basically an Italian ritual at Christmas. So, if you’ve not heard of this delightful delicacy... we’re not letting you back into Sugo. Just kidding! Or are we?...
The famous Italian Christmas cake is a sweet type of bread often served after mass on Christmas Eve. Legend has it, Panettone comes from “Pan de Toni” meaning “Tony’s bread”, a servant who accidentally burned a dessert made for his boss.
Maybe not so different from your failed attempts at Mary Berry’s Christmas pudding recipe after all?
Meet Santa Claus, Italian style. Having enjoyed slightly less second helpings than the Santa you know and looking a little more regal, Italians hang stockings by the fireplace for Babbo Natale to fill on Christmas Day.
However, the main event for gift giving is the end of the festive season on January 6th, the Epiphany. It is believed that on Epiphany night, a kind old witch called Befana flies on a broomstick to bring presents to good children after passing up the 3 Wise Men on their offer to join them on the journey to see the baby Jesus. All because she was too busy doing housework. Seems like major regret to us.
“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”
“Spend Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want”.
An Italian phrase that we’re sure sums up the part of Christmas we all love most. Spending a whole 2 weeks with your entire family.
Oh, the joys. Buon Natale!