December 25, 2021
Early this morning, excitement filled the air as everyone rushed to the Christmas tree.
I remember my wife sharing with me her family’s tradition. Growing up in Poland, her family opened their gifts on New Year’s Eve. But here in Italy, as the legend says, Santa brings gifts at night while the kids sleep, so we open our presents on Christmas morning.
After unwrapping gifts, we enjoyed a light breakfast. We didn’t want to eat too much, anticipating what was to come!
On December 25 in Italy, pranzo (lunch) is definitely the most important meal of the day. Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed learning about the different foods that are traditional in the various regions of Italy. This year, we prepared the foods I grew up eating in Bologna for our relatives who began arriving around noon.
We began with a number of family-style appetizers, followed by several pasta dishes, including a family favorite, tortellini. This year our entrées included roasted capon, sausages and cotechino (the typical regional meats), and bollito misto—a variety of meats boiled in their own broth—served with a savory Italian-style salsa verde and a bunch of vegetables.
(I laugh at myself now, because even though I write this in my diary, the chef in me cannot resist discussing our meal like I’m presenting a menu!)
I know in other countries there is a phrase “save some room for dessert.” Here in Italy, mealtime is not rushed. Today, we spent time bonding with family in the kitchen, celebrating the traditions of cooking together and savoring every course. When it was time for dessert, our bellies were not filled to overflowing.
This year we enjoyed a panettone for our sweet bread (last year we indulged in a pandoro) and our dolce (dessert) was a rich and creamy tiramisù. As I recall, we chose to serve panna cotta last Christmas.
Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed one of my favorite Christmas traditions, visiting many of our older relatives at their homes. As we walked the streets this December 25th evening, the pizzerias were bustling and alive with energy. My wife and I shared a smile as we remembered when we were younger how we too would get together with friends for pizza at the end of the day.