| Italy: the evening meal on Christmas Eve

| Italy: the evening meal on Christmas Eve

The Christmas season is much anticipated as one of Italy’s most celebrated holidays. When it comes to an Italian Christmas, food is an important part of the tradition.

The evening meal on Christmas Eve (La Vigilia) is traditionally based around fish, as a meat-free day before the decadence of the 25th. Some families will serve seven types of fish as the meal is known as the Festa dei sette pesci (Feast of the seven fish) and seven is a symbolic number in Christianity. But don’t surprised if even more dishes are served!

One traditional Christmas Eve dish is capitone . These days, more common fish include baccalà, and shellfish, sword fish, tuna, salmon, octopus salad, smelts, calamari.

Then, of course, come the pasta dishes. These also vary. In the north, especially Lombardy and Piedmont, lasagna is covered with anchovies, parmesan, and seasonings. In Naples, it’s vermicelli with clams or mussels.

No matter where you celebrate, though, the sweet treats are a certainty. Of course, sweet breads, like panettone and pandoro, are popular across Italy. Other desserts include cavallucci, cookies with the image of a horse (from, Siena); dita degli apostoli (“fingers of the apostles”), chocolate- or coffee-flavored ricotta-filled omelettes, a Puglian tradition; and mostaccioli, spiced nut pastries gobbled up by Romans.