Christmas in Italy
a wonderful Holiday experience
Christmas in Italy, like seemingly all those occasions where Families and Friends give themselves the opportunity to get closer to each other and back in contact possibly after months (if not years) of carelessly going by without even a phone call to say "hello" (ok, I'm a bit melodramatic here), is one of those occasions nobody would want to miss.
Christmas in Italy (the italian term is "Natale", directly referring to the "Birth" of Jesus) is so deep in the national culture that a common way of saying tells "Natale con i Tuoi e Pasqua con chi vuoi", that is "Christmas with your Folks and Easter with whomever you want": that should really tell something about the importance for italian families to get together in such an intimate and rare occasion.
It is "rare" because of its meaning, of its atmosphere and because families around the world re-unite under a unique roof (and yes, around the same table...) even from distant parts of this world.
If this is commonly true for many of the non-Italian people around the globe, I can assure you that it is even more so for Italians.
The thought of spending Christmas far from the places of youth and of the familiar memories is an almost unbearable one.
I am not saying this simply because I believe it true, but because I know it true.
Family in Italy has always had and keeps having today a special meaning.
Bonds with the roots are deep and warm and there are plenty of examples where you can see (very) grown-up kids (...30+ years old) still living with Mama and Papa... ok now, back to our business!
Where were we... Christmas in Italy.
What would you think about if I said "Vatican" and the "Church"?
The Vatican State and the Italian one have found, over the millennia and several up's and down's, an almost indissoluble co-existence in the Eternal City of Rome.
Italy will not be the same without Rome and Rome would not be the same without the Vatican and the Roman Church.
Italian culture is so, I wouldn't say helplessly, but unavoidably imbued with beliefs, values and cultural paradigms deriving from the fact that its very territory have been shaped and touched by this strong influenced.
So it is with all the (most of them) religious Holidays that are celebrated throughout the calendar Year.
I would therefore add the third component to the celebrations of the Christmas in Italy and that is "Church".
I am personally retaining fond memories of those days when, with the elder components of my Family (Grandmother, Grand-Aunt, Grand-Uncle, etc.) the christmas season initiated with activities and commemorations at the Church of our town.
First and foremost, the Christmas Holidays following the lithurgic calendar begin on Dec 24th: as the day approaches the evening in the so called "Vigilia di Natale" (Christmas Eve), the people, the fidels, symbolically wait throughout the night and until the following morning for the Birth of Jesus Christ.
The night is a period of prayer and of intimacy and the meal in the evening (the so called "Cenone", i.e. the big dinner) is typically not containing any meat, in observation of the sacrality of the wait.
Upon the arrival of the 25th of December, the Christmas day, religious celebrations proceed throughout the day and Families re-unite to sanctify this newly-found communion in the "Pranzo di Natale".
The forms and ingredients used to prepare these meals are varying throughout the Boot, but all tend to respect a common symbology and, as told before, shall all mainly be based on fish for the Cenone and more specific, local ingredients for the 25th.
For the pleasure of all those who cannot stand my culinary (or rather feasting) reports, I will not miss the opportunity to publish material from "My" Christmas in Italy soon after I will have recollected my senses...
From to Italian Traditions