Italian Christmas Dinner Celebration

What Do Italians Eat At Christmas?

There’s quite a few of us out there that cannot imagine a traditional Christmas dinner without our roast turkey, ham, veggies & gravy.

We fantasize and drool all year for the Christmas day indulgence, but the main feast is usually over quite quickly. Then, there’s Italy. If there’s one culture that know how to make a meal of it, it’s the Italians.

The Feast of Seven Fishes

For a traditional Italian Christmas, the dinner festivities are carried out over a number of days. While traditions and dishes vary greatly by region, there are a lot of similarities as well. Starting on Christmas Eve, Italians like to hold back, saving themselves for the main event on Christmas day. So they don’t eat meat. Instead they just dabble, in a small meal known as The Feast of Seven Fishes.

Yes, you read that right. Feast, of SEVEN Fishes. Italians know how to party. For this particular feast, you can expect an array of different dishes and courses. Typically, you might expect spaghetti with mussels, baked eel and olives, anchovies, squid or the Italian classic, salted cod, known as baccalá. This feast can also include other meatless dishes including stuffed pastas and gnocchi.

Christmas Day

Christmas dinner in Italy tends to be a lengthy affair, which in some cases can last for hours. You might start off with an antipasti board chock full of beautiful meats and cheeses, or some regions would be more inclined to kick off festivities with pasta in broth (Pasta in Brodo).

The second course tends to be pasta based – typically a baked pasta, lasagna or a stuffed pasta like ravioli.

Then, after your fill of cured meats, cheese and pasta – it’s time for the main event. The main course could consist of roasted veal, chicken, braised beef, more recently you might even find a roast turkey. In Northern Italy you might even be served the traditional Lo Zampone, which is the skin of a pig’s foot filled with spiced mincemeat.


Finally, dessert is served. Sweet breads like panettone and pandoro are popular choice across all Italian regions. Other choices may include cavallucci, cookies, sweet flavoured ricotta filled omelettes and more.

One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of food at an Italian Christmas, and the festivities may even stretch out until January.


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