Christmas traditions from home: Italy

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo by Bela Balla.

Ever wondered about how different countries have different Christmas traditions? We have! And some of us have decided to share their personal traditions from home. 

In this week’s entry, we get a testimony from an Italian student living in Glasgow. 

Christmas traditions from Home

Christmas means family, although, to be fair, lots of things in Italy mean family.

But Christmas is family, you are home for Christmas, no matter what. It’s a must, a holiday you’re simply not excused from, no reason will ever be good enough to miss Christmas.

That being said, my family doesn’t make for the most typical example. My brother is spending Christmas with friends this year, which is something I’ve never known an Italian to do.

Usually, for young people, the drill is, Christmas at home, New Year’s Eve out with friends. That is, unless your parents are divorced, then you’ll have to alternate the holidays with mum and dad.

The big thing for us is Christmas dinner. Spending the holiday with mum’s folks has become a tricky deal, since some relatives can’t be in the same room with each other. When I was a child, my grandma and my two aunts would always be present, my aunt’s daughter and her kids would usually come as well. That was fantastic, my favourite get together of the year. Now my two aunts refuse to ever address each other or be in the same building.

Canale Grande in Venice, Italy. Photo by Gerhard Gellinger.

On Christmas Eve, my aunt would cook a special dish, typical of our region, which contained vegetables I would only like for that occasion. My mum would make these little tarts, so simple and just right. My other aunt would hang around the kitchen talking to me, because she was the only one who couldn’t cook at all. My father would probably be on meat, and his dishes would almost rival my aunt’s. My grandma would sometimes make a family’s favourite, tortelli, which is a spinach-filled pasta that paired with some cream and cheese is to die for.

It was the perfect meal, with plenty leftovers for the following day. But my favourite part came after the fruit.

Us children would all wait anxiously for the adults to eat their oranges, and plan on what the funniest way to start the battle would be. Would you throw the peel at aunt A. first? Or would we make an enemy of cousin I.?

All the orange peel would be kept close, with the children trying to snatch it from the adults, because it was the ammunition for the most entertaining of fights. Usually mum started it, or aunt A. if she saw that I was over waiting. And usually, they would target each other, or me.

It was perfect. Orange peel all over the kitchen, alliances being formed and friends betrayed. There were no rules, other than ‘if you break it, you buy a new one.’

Christmas comet in Verona, in front of the arena. photo by Gianni Crestani.

I should mention, most people in my family are not Christian, but they used to be and celebrating the festivity just stuck with them.

For my immediate family, Christmas Day is about the one passion that we all share: books. We gift and receive books for Christmas, no other presents. Our family tradition for Christmas strongly differs from most Italian families. The whole day is about reading.

Nothing is important but the new books we are going to read. We then come together for the meals and talk about the stories we were reading.

That’s what makes it my favourite day. I don’t celebrate the religious holiday, but I always look forward to the day our family comes together to  share our biggest passion.

READ more: Glasgow Square dazzles in Christmas cheer

About Sara Lovallo

Sara is an award-winning student journalist at Glasgow Clyde College. During her career in media she hopes to explore the fields of investigative reporting, production and magazine journalism. Pizza connoisseur.

View all posts by Sara Lovallo →

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