If you’ve been keeping up with our posts, you’ll know that during the holiday period we like to share both Italian food & wine traditions as well as cultural snippets.
Food is an important part of culture, it’s an expression of cultural identity. Immigrants bring the food of their countries with them wherever they go, cooking traditional food is a way of preserving culture intact. In the same way, adhering to tradition during the holiday period is paramount. In Italy food and culture blend together seamlessly.
Tasty holiday celebrations in Italy normally begin on December 8th with Festa dell’Immacolata. That’s when we enjoy large mugs of hot chocolate by the blazing fireplace. This is also the day all the Christmas decorations go up.
Did you know that on December 13th Sicilians eat arancini to honor a Saint?
In central and southern Italy we celebrate Christmas Eve with a massive fish and seafood dinner. This tradition was inspirational to the American-Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes, enjoyed with a lineup of incredible wine pairings.
Christmas Day is another edible celebration. Lunch or dinner involves some form of comforting soup, like tortellini in broth, and traditional desserts like panettone and pandoro, torrone, dried fruits and nuts.
Another typically Italian Holiday Season tradition is gambling. Yes! Playing scopa or Mercante in Fiera (a “lottery” type card game) and bingo with family and friends is very common during the holidays. We use bits of tangerine orange peel, or dried beans to cover the numbers as they’re called out. Each draw is met by roaring commentary (as well as Neapolitan “Smorfia” significance). The kids partake and the prizes are pennies.
There’s always a beautiful cheese spread in the Italian home during le Feste, and this makes us very happy!
On Boxing Day, December 26th, Italians make great use of leftovers.
The entire New Year’s Eve menu is one big fortune-attracting operation. Stewed lentils bring money, and zampone or cotechino––a large spiced pork meat sausage––represents phallic abundance. Some folks take this propitious meal so seriously that they delay dinner to after midnight and not one minute earlier, to avoid jinxing the effect.
Another fortune-bearing midnight exercise is eating three white grapes on the twelfth bell toll. Also slipping on bright red underwear. Fire engine red foundation garments in close proximity to the serendipitous bottom, bring good luck in the coming year. Benvenuto 2021, addio 2020!
In addition to bubbles, we like to ring in the new year by saying, “cin cin” with cocktails.
At the end of this gustatory extravaganza comes La Befana with her stocking full of candy on the night of January 5th. Until quite recently, the Befana brought gifts to Italian kids, and not Santa Claus!
If this year (and what a year it has been for all of us!) you want to give a taste of Italy to friends, family and colleagues, consider gifting them a cooking class, or a wine and cheese tasting. These take place in our kitchens and reach the far corners of the world thanks to live interaction via zoom.
There are fantastic promotions that you can take advantage of, we’ve extended them through to December 24th. And don’t forget we also organize private cooking/wine parties just for you, without having to share the screen with anyone else other than your loved ones.
Not to mention out stylish aprons!
Check out our December and January classes by clicking on our Live Cooking and Wine page on the website.