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Italian Christmas

Italian Christmas

See how Christmas is celebrated in the different regions of Italy and discover the dishes served during the festive period.

In Italy, Christmas officially begins on 8 December, the Day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. From then on, Italy is transformed into a festive wonderland, with carol singers, folk music and plenty of Christmas markets. But it’s the regional customs that really make an Italian Christmas so special. In the north, children are allowed to open presents on 13 December, for example, as they believe they are delivered by St Lucia, whereas in the hotter south they must wait until Christmas Day, but believe Jesus himself has visited to drop them off. Some even wait until 6 January when la befana arrives – a benevolent witch who got lost following the three wise men!

As you can probably imagine, the festive food and drink on offer varies hugely as well. The cold, mountainous regions of the north cook up completely different Christmas dinners to those in the hot southern islands of Italy. While panforte and pannetone may have made their way to international tables, there are still so many festive dishes that are all but unheard of outside Italy. Read on to discover some of them and how to recreate the flavours of Italian Christmas at home.

Recipes for success

Looking for some tasty treats to tuck into this Christmas? Take inspiration from the regional delicacies of Italy in our extensive collection.

Christmas traditions

Something sweet

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Many Christmas traditions have their origins shrouded in the mists of time – one such ritual is that of eating fish on Christmas Eve, with the little-known ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’ being an epic example of Catholic Italian customs.

Festive flavours