Christmas Day revolves around one thing: the cenone
(big dinner), and the main event can spread out over a dozen courses! Understandably, Christmas meals are often planned weeks in advance.
Dishes vary depending on the region, but usually include an antipasto of cured meats and cheese, frittata, seafood-laden salads, and fresh fish platters.
You’ll typically find baked lasagne or tortellini in broth, but this also changes depending on the region. Southern regions like Campania
feature a lot of fish. The main course is usually roast meat, such as pork, beef, or lamb, that’s served with all the vegetable trimmings.
Every Italian family tends to have panettone
, a traditional sweet yeast bread from Verona, as well as chocolate, the classic Italian nougat of torrone
, and baci di dama
(hazelnut biscuits) from Turin
on hand. In Rome you’ll find mostaccioli
, spiced nut biscuits, while in Tuscany
you can try cavallucci
, biscuits traditionally eaten on the Twelfth Night.
After lunch, children open and read the love letters they wrote to their parents. At midday in Rome, the Pope appears on his famous balcony in the basilica for a blessing, and pilgrims and locals alike congregate. In the evening, families gather for a low stakes game of tombola
(bingo), which was believed to have first been played in Naples
in the 18th century. Every number is assigned a symbol that represents the number’s traditional meaning. For example, the number 90 means fear, while 47 represents the speaking dead.