Vita Gazette

News from Italy

The Christmas dilemma: dinner or lunch?

The scent of Christmas is everywhere: our city is ready for Christmas; Our roads are ready; Our houses are ready; Our Christmas tree is ready; Our gifts for children are ready; Our soul is ready; We look forward to a new year with new hopes… Time to sit down and celebrate Christmas. But there’s a problem! Are we celebrating at Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas lunch?

At Christmas it is customary to sit at the table and eat with our family and loved ones. The time for this dish could also be on the evening of Christmas Eve. Or it could be until the evening of Christmas Day. The tradition of Christmas in Italy is twofold. Since no meat is eaten on Christmas Eve, it is customary to eat fish. However, our lunch menu is extensive. Many families, including mine, celebrate both. But during the Christmas period “dinner or lunch? Is it an eve’s day? Is it Christmas day? fish? the meat? “questions continue to occupy minds…

In the past, the Christmas Eve dinner was celebrated in central and southern Italy, while the dinner was celebrated in the north. But now it has changed. Christmas Eve, December 24, is one of the most culturally significant celebrations in Christianity and Western society: being with family and friends; singing Christmas carols; Illuminate Christmas lights, trees and other decorations; gifts packaging; open packages; General preparation for Christmas day. All for this day … The celebration of Christmas begins on the night of the 24th, also for the day of the Christian liturgy, which begins at sunset. According to tradition, on the eve of Jesus’ birth and to commemorate his birth, the midnight liturgy is celebrated on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is associated with the song “Silent Night, Holy Night”. Even on the evening of Christmas Eve, legendary Christmas characters such as Santa Claus, Baby Jesus and Saint Nicholas embark on their annual journey to deliver gifts to children around the world, even at midnight on Christmas Eve. A world of fairy tales…

December 24: Christmas Eve dinner is more important than Christmas lunch. Because the Holy Mass is celebrated at midnight. And gifts are given throughout the night. So what should we eat for today? Since it is traditional to prepare a fat-free and meat-free dinner that day, our menu is therefore based on fish. This tradition does not change throughout the peninsula. It is also traditional to eat eel or fish quilt. But other crustaceans also use it. Varieties such as caviar, oysters or smoked salmon are also consumed in northern Italy. Even the appetizers are generally based on fish; Carpaccio, for example swordfish, tuna or salmon (swordfish carpaccio, fresh tuna or salmon) and / or octopus salad (fish or octopus salad).

In regions such as Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, agnolotti with ricotta and spinach, potatoes or pumpkin are served as a first course. These are usually served with butter, sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano. In Veneto there are bigoilers with sauce, a kind of buckwheat spaghetti flavored with anchovy and onion cream. Eel or quilted is a very traditional dish and is cooked in many different ways in Italy. In some parts of Sicily, swordfish rolls are prepared with breadcrumbs, orange juice, pine nuts, raisins, tarragon, ginger, garlic, parsley and basil. This Christmas Eve dinner is eaten before midnight mass. For this reason it is customary to consume biscuits or a slice of panettone and hot chocolate at home after putting it in the cold regions.

As for gifts, traditionally, after the midnight service, gifts are opened after dinner; It is wonderful to celebrate this ceremony with everyone. But it’s hard for kids to wait until midnight. So it makes more sense to choose to celebrate at lunch. Santa Claus arrives at night and upon awakening the little ones are immersed in the opening of their gifts. A wonderful fairy tale world for those who can imagine…

December 25: Christmas dinner

Christmas lunch is one of the most important meals. The largest table is reserved for that day. Whoever has the largest table in the house is the host of the party. Guests dressed in their finest outfits go to the party house with gift packages, flowers, food treats, and drinks. The house is decorated. A large and wide table has been set up. The Christmas music is on. For the one-hour Christmas lunch, the menu should be very rich, as tradition dictates: the first course is a long list of appetizers, cappelletti, agnolotti or ravioli, followed by French fries. Afterwards, dried fruit and Christmas sweets are served.

A classic appetizer is usually served before Christmas lunch, with olives, cheeses and cured meats. When pasta arrives on the table as a first course, it is almost impossible for an Italian to refuse a second portion of cooked lasagna. This type of cooked pasta is more common in the central-southern regions of Italy. In the north dominates the green lasagna with different fillings such as bolognese, cannelloni, ravioli or trotellini, together with a wide variety of stuffed pasta with béchamel and meat sauces. While today’s young families have their own alternatives to these classic options, most Italians prefer the traditional Christmas lunch. A second course is roast beef, roast beef, or roast chicken with potatoes.

Desserts are the foundation of the Christmas menu throughout Italy, both for the Christmas Eve dinner and for Christmas lunch. In Veneto, Christmas is celebrated with the traditional Veronese pandoro, the enemy of panettone (Lombardy). The origins of the dessert date back to the 18th century, when it was appreciated by the Venetian aristocracy. The formula for making Pandoro was born in Verona (in the Venice / Veneto region). Together with Panettone, this dessert has become the sweet symbol of Christmas in Italy, but it remains a tradition to prepare traditional Christmas sweets in every region.

Food is an excuse, friendship, sharing and gathering moments is wonderful… What is the best memory of Christmas lunch, every time it is eaten? Of course, they are gifts that are opened between laughter… Merry Christmas…

We are in Rome, in Lazio.  Here is Lazio’s classic Christmas dinner menu:

Traditionally, a simple dinner is prepared for Christmas Eve, while for Christmas lunch it is allowed to overflow with more substantial dishes. For this reason, starting from the evening of December 24th, we start with fish and vegetable dishes, the most classic of the tables. And it continues with Christmas lunch.

Christmas lunch menu

First: cannelloni, lasagna or timbales

Second course: turkey with baked potatoes or peppers

Side dishes: potatoes and salad

Desserts: panettone, pandoro, gingerbread or nougat.

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