Discover the delicious Italian Christmas flavors with us at Visit Italy! A unique culinary journey through traditions and delicacies!

tickets banner

Digging into and collecting all the Italian Christmas traditions is not that easy, because this holiday in Italy is deeply felt, both from a religious point of view, but also and above all from a cultural point of view.

The Christmas holidays in Italy bring with them an explosion of flavors, aromas and culinary traditions that make Christmas a unique experience. Every region of the country contributes to the table with traditional Christmas dishes that tell stories of past and present, reflecting the nation's rich cultural diversity. In this article, we will try to bring together the gastronomic pleasures of the holidays, customs and traditions, exploring in detail two key moments of the celebrations: Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch. Shall we start?

Italian Christmas traditions: the dinner and the lunch

Traditional Italian Christmas lunch and dinner

What are the Italian Christmas traditions? There is no doubt that, like many things in the belpaese, these mainly involve times of conviviality and good food.

Indeed, traditional Italian Christmas lunch and dinner hold significant cultural importance, being times of family sharing and celebration. During these meals, stories, anecdotes and traditions are shared, creating a warm and engaging atmosphere. In addition, in all regions of Italy, some typical dishes and desserts are prepared specifically for these occasions, helping to make these moments even more special and culturally significant. For example, dishes such as tortellini, cotechino, panettone and pandoro, torrone and cartellate are just some of the culinary delicacies that characterize Christmas in Italy. 

The tradition of lunch and dinner in Italy is an opportunity to strengthen family ties and share moments of joy and gratitude. These meals provide an opportunity to bring together relatives and friends, often from different cities or even countries, to spend time together and renew emotional ties. During lunch and dinner, stories, anecdotes and traditions are shared, creating an atmosphere of celebration and inclusion. In some families, it is also customary to invite lonely or needy people, embodying the generous and supportive spirit of Christmas.

Christmas eve dinner

Christmas Eve, traditional dishes

Christmas Eve, also called the "Good Night," is a festive time devoted mainly to fish. The tradition of avoiding meat on Christmas Eve has religious roots, as the Catholic Church in the past forbade the consumption of meat on certain fasting days. A traditional dish of the Eve Dinner is Capitone, a large eel cooked in various ways depending on the region.

In addition to Capitone, Codfish is an undisputed star of the Christmas table. Baccalà, dried and salted cod, is prepared in a variety of ways. One famous recipe is Baccalà alla Vicentina, typical of the Vicenza area, cooked with onion, milk and polenta. Other popular fish dishes include Risotto ai Frutti di Mare, Zuppa di Pesce, and Frittura di Paranza, a selection of fried small fish.

The Christmas Eve table cannot be considered complete without Cappelletti in Brodo, a type of stuffed pasta typical of Emilia-Romagna. These small ravioli are often stuffed with beef and pork, flavored with nutmeg and served in a rich broth.

Traditions of Christmas Eve

Traditions of Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve in Italy is a time of great cultural and religious significance. This day, which precedes Christmas, is characterized by a number of traditions and customs that vary from region to region. It is often an occasion to gather the family and spend time together in anticipation of the holiday. Christmas Eve is a time of preparation and anticipation, during which various practices related to religious tradition take place, such as midnight Mass and the celebration of the vigil, during which the faithful gather in prayer from late evening until dawn on Christmas Day. In some regions, such as Southern Italy, the Christmas Eve dinner is particularly meaningful and is held in an atmosphere of feasting and sharing. However, the Christmas Eve tradition can vary greatly from one part of the country to another, with some areas preferring to celebrate at Christmas Day lunch and dinner and ignoring Christmas Eve dinner altogether. Despite these differences, Christmas Eve remains a special time when families come together to share their joy and anticipation for the imminent arrival of Christmas.

Christmas Eve is an occasion to strengthen family ties and share moments of joy and gratitude. During this day, Italian families engage in various activities, such as preparing Christmas decorations, participating in cultural and religious events, and sharing special meals. In many regions, Christmas Eve dinner is the most anticipated culinary moment, often characterized by fish dishes and traditional dishes passed down from generation to generation. However, the true essence of Christmas Eve lies in the sharing, anticipation and preparation to welcome Christmas. It is an opportunity to reflect on family values and to celebrate unity and generosity, embodying the Christmas spirit of peace and love.

Italian tradition of Christmas lunch

Traditional Christmas dishes

Christmas lunch, on the other hand, is characterized by an abundance of meat, usually lamb, pork, or turkey. One of the most iconic dishes is Stuffed Capon, a turkey stuffed with a mixture of meat, eggs, cheese, and herbs such as rosemary and thyme. This succulent dish is often accompanied by rich side dishes such as roasted potatoes, chestnuts, and baked vegetables.

Another dish that finds its way onto Italian Christmas tables is Porchetta, a slow-cooked roast pork seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and other herbs. The crispy crust and succulent filling make porchetta a delight for the palate.

The time for dessert during Christmas lunch is also a unique experience. In addition to the aforementioned Panettone, a leavened dessert originating in Milan, there is Pandoro. The latter, which originated in Verona, is a fluffy cake dusted with powdered sugar that symbolically represents an eight-pointed star.

Why not spend the holiday season in the city of Christmas cake par excellence? We at Visit Italy offer you a very affordable pass to Milan; you don't have to think about anything, just enjoying the decorated city with the people you love most.

If you want to learn about traditional Italian Christmas dishes, we suggest you read the article on our website by clicking on the link below. You will discover 20 regional Christmas recipes and try your hand at reproducing one! 

Buy the Official Milano Pass!

Christmas in Italy: traditions, conviviality and devotion

Traditions of Christmas dinner

The tradition of Christmas in Italy is full of fascinating curiosities and customs, both regarding the day itself and the meal. December 25, in addition to being the highlight of the holiday season, is also an important occasion for religious practice. On this day, many Italian families attend Christmas Mass, which can be celebrated at different times, including the Mass of the Dawn and the Mass of the Day. These liturgical celebrations are characterized by an atmosphere of joy and devotion, during which the faithful gather to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. Participation in the Christmas Mass is thus a significant moment for the Catholic community, providing an opportunity to share their faith and celebrate the feast of Christmas together.

In addition, December 25 is also the day when Italian families come together to share Christmas lunch. This meal represents a time of conviviality and joy, during which relatives and friends gather around the table to enjoy traditional dishes and spend time together. The traditions associated with Christmas lunch vary greatly from region to region, with dishes and culinary customs representing the richness and diversity of the country's food and wine traditions. Regarding the wealth of food and wine that Italy possesses, we at Visit Italy offer you a wine tasting in Alcamo, Sicily. This experience will make you savor the delicacies that this island possesses.

This moment provides a unique opportunity to discover the different nuances of Italian culture and to share the joy of Christmas through food and conviviality.

Book the food and wine tour!

We recommend

We recommend