For me this year will be my first Christmas Day (since I moved in) where we will be cooking and eating lunch in my house. I moved in on May Day 2005 and that Christmas/New Year my son couldn't visit from England and my niece and her family from Milan decided that they wanted me to go to them and not the other way around. Then in 2006 my son and his partner did come over for three days and he didn't want me to spend the short time we had together 'slaving over a hot stove in the kitchen' for hours - so we went >HERE< for our lunch.
This is something fairly new for many parts of Italy....but letting others do the cooking is becoming more popular these days. But if you are at home then Christmas really satrts the evening before with the Cena della Vigilia di Natale. This usually comprises of a variety of dishes but is often based on seven varieties of fish or shellfish. It is usually a large family gathering and we sit down at about 9.30pm. The children are all excited about the arrival of Gesu Bambino (but these days Babbo Natale seems to be working his way into the Italian traditions too). At midnight in my family circle many will go to mass and once they return the children are told that Gesu Bambino (or Babbo Natale) has arrived and they are given their presents. The grown ups continue with their 'party/supper' and before long the children have (usually) all fallen asleep and are tucked up for a sleep 'til it's time to go home.... Of course they then 'sleep in', and so do the parents, on Christmas morning (that part I always enjoy). No little ones waking you up with screams of "He's arrived!" at maybe four o'clock in the morning!
Then of course there's the Christmas lunch - which is usually served about 3pm... that will normally follow this pattern:
Cold sliced ham, salami, bresaula. Vitello tonnato, insalata russa, sotto aceti etc.
Usually ravioli in broth or with tomato or ragù sauce.
* Fish Course:
Often fresh salmon (not smoked) or maybe pesce persico (bass)
or branzino.(sea bass).
* Meat course:
Roast capone (capon), faraone (guinea fowl) and maybe some bolied hen (gallina) that has been used for chicken stock. Plus plenty of tiny cubes of roast potatoes with rosemary and a mixed salad.
* Cheese selection:
Often parmesan served with pears or grapes.
Pannetone, Pan D'oro or Panforte di Siena
All of these dishes are of course accompanied by a variety of wines, ending up with either spumante or prosecco.
And FINALLY..... a nice espresso coffee or 'caffe coretto (with a liqueur added!!!)
By now it could be 7.00/7.30 and any thought of supper has disappeared. But some may look for a bowl of broth about 10 or 11pm - just to settle their tummy's....
So there you have it... a fairly normal 'family' Christmas here in northern Italy.
The Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square