Ciao a tutti! As I mentioned in my Clear the List post for December, I have set myself a little language challenge each day for my very special advent tracker. It is like a normal advent calendar but with less chocolate and a lot more languages. My kind of Christmas!
Over the last four days I have started with a bang, getting stuck in on the Italian Christmas traditions. So, I thought it would be nice to share my progress with you and hopefully spread a little Italian festive cheer.
Day 1 – Christmas Greetings
You can’t get into the holiday spirit without being about able to wish people a Merry Christmas, and it’s no different in Italy. I have chosen a selection of phrases for the festive season to learn ready for when I talk to my Italian friends later in the month.
Buon Natale – Merry Christmas
Buone feste tanti auguri! – Happy Holidays and best wishes!
Felice Anno Nuovo! – Happy New Year
Auguro a tutti voi un Natale Sereno! – I wish you all a Merry Christmas
I particularly like the last one. Sounds very fancy!
Day 2 – Christmas Dinner
Food is my favourite thing about Christmas (and life in general), so I have been really excited to learn about the traditions of the different countries. These traditions has come from research online and my Italian friend, so they will be authentic but there may be some regional variations that I haven’t included. Please let me know in the comments if you know of any and I can add them to the list.
According to Italian tradition, the meal for Christmas Eve (La Vigilia) is made up of fish and vegetables. This is a tradition that applies to most meals served before a religious festival; where most people are meant to have a giorno di magro (thin day) to help purify their bodies.
One of the most common meals is The Feast of the Seven Fishes and so I have decided to learn all the words for the ingredients involved.
La festa dei sette pesci – Feast of the seven fishes
Il pesce spada – Sword fish
Il tonno – Tuna
Il salmone – Salmon
Il polpo – Octopus
I sperlani – Smelts (I hadn’t even heard of the English word before…)
I calamari – Calamari (Not even sure how I will remember this one. It is so different…)
La salsa di vongole – Clam Sauce
Baccalà – salted cod
One very traditional festive meal, for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, is Cotechino con lenticchie (Cotechino with lentils). Cotechino is kind of like salami, but don’t call it a sausage, whatever you do. That is blasphemy! (according to my Italian friend).
I found a great recipe on Giallo Zafferano (my favourite Italian cooking website) for this very meal which I have shared below. If you are interested in Italian food you should check out their website. They have a huge range of recipes in Italian and English (lots with videos) so you can start cooking italiano in no time!
My Italian friend also said they have this meal with purè (mashed potato) and cappone (a type of chicken). This sounds like something I would really enjoy. We also have chicken at Christmas so wouldn’t be too far from the norm, but more about this when I tell you about our Christmas traditions later in the month.
The meal for Santo Stefano (Boxing Day to us Brits) is very similar to what a lot of us will be used to; leftovers. There isn’t really any vocabulary to learn here but I thought I would include it as it’s always nice to find the similarities as well as the differences.
Day 3 – Christmas Carols
I have to say thanks again to my Italian friend Alessandro, as he was a massive help in finding these carols. He even found the videos with the lyrics in the description to help me learn it. So thoughtful!
Hopefully I can sing along by the time Christmas comes around.
Day 4 – Christmas Story
The Italian story I have chosen to read about is the Legend of Befana. I’ve heard about it before and thought it would be nice to do some further reading.
On Epiphany (the religious celebrations) it is believed that Befana comes down the chimney and fills good children’s stockings with sweets and bad children’s with coal. She then cleans up the mess she made from the chimney with her magic broom. Sounds very familiar to me.
One big difference from the British Father Christmas is that instead of cookies and milk, Italian’s leave wine and sweets. Clearly Befana has a more matured palette. Then it all turns a little strange as they burn a replica of her in the town square to mark the changing of the year. Some people believe this is a combination of the Christian Epiphany celebrations and Pagan traditions of the “Old Lady” that used to come around and eat the children. In case you are as fascinated with the whole idea of Befana there is a link here for you to explore more.
That marks the end of the first part of my advent challenge. Italian complete! I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have doing it. Stay tuned for my next collection of German challenges later in the week.
Ciao for now!