Italian Christmas Menus & Foodie Gifts

Cesto di Natale, Foodie Gifts

To us Italians, nothing expresses more love than giving people homemade goodies we prepared for them. This is why in this year's advent calendar we have included food gift recipes you can prepare in advance for your family and friends.

Cesto di Natale. Literally 'food baskets', cesti di Natale are a thing in Italy during Christmas. It is a present we usually offer co-workers, professionals that have helped us (doctors, lawyers, accountants), and literally anyone we want to thank. We fill gift baskets with parmigiano, wine, lentils, torrone, panettone, pandoro, extra virgin olive oil, and any other food gift they may like.

Why don't you create your very own homemade cesto di Natale this year to express your gratitude?

There are 3 key dates in which we celebrate Christmas in Italy and each has specific traditions: Christmas Eve (24 December), Christmas Day (25 December), and Santo Stefano (26 December). In your 2021 Italian Online Avent Calendar, we have put together traditional Christmas recipes that you can prepare and serve on each of these days. It includes antipasti (appetizers), primi (1st-course dishes), secondi (2nd-course dishes), and dolci (desserts), as well as food gifts you can prepare in advance for your family and friends.

Italian Christmas desserts. All throughout the month of December, grocery shops and supermarkets sell Italy's traditional Christmas desserts: panettone (a dome-shaped cake-like bread made with raisins and candied fruit peels), pandoro (a star-shaped sweet bread covered with confectioners' sugar), and torrone (a nougat usually made of honey, beaten egg whites, almonds, and hazelnuts).

La Cena della Vigilia di Natale on Christmas Eve

We celebrate Christmas Eve (in Italian, vigilia di Natale) for dinner (cena in Italian). Families get together in the evening and they start by enjoying an aperitivo in the living room. Then they all sit around the family table and begin their 5-course dinner which is traditionally seafood-based. When it comes to celebrations, Italians usually always have a full meal.

Did you know? The ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic custom of abstinence from meat and dairy products on the eve of certain holidays, including Christmas.

25 December: Il Pranzo di Natale on Christmas Day

Christmas Day celebration is at lunch. At around 1.30 pm (or even later!), the family sits around the table for a long, very long meal. It's a celebration day so the menu is abundant and rich. Each Italian region has its own traditional dishes, many of which include meat. As always, pandoro, torrone, and panettone end this luscious meal.

26 December: Santo Stefano

Saint Stephen’s Day is a national holiday in Italy. It commemorates the Saint who is regarded as the 1st martyr for Christianity. After spending Christmas at home with family, this day is traditionally spent outdoors with friends. Food and cooking are no longer the key focus. It's a day to slow down, unwind, and even enjoy the delicious Christmas meal leftovers ... if there are any left!

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