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Sicilian Culture: Christmas Traditions

Please Also See Christmas Eve Fish Dinner

For a country like the United States that has a lot of Italians, its interesting that the season of Christmas in Italy is very differing and refreshing due to the absence of commercialism and sales.   Italian children don't make lists of toys they want, they write letters to their mother and father expressing how much love they have for them.  Traditionally, these letters are read after dinner on Christmas Eve.  While some of the European traditions have creeped in such as decorating an evergreen tree.

One tradition you often hear of in the United States is "if you are not good, you will get coal in your stocking".  Well, this actually stems from the tradition of La Befana.  On the night that Jesus was born, the 2 Wise Men had stopped by her house to ask for directions, afterward they had asked her to join them, but she refused.  Later on, a shepherd stopped by to ask her for directions as well, and then also asked her to join him to come pay respects to the baby Jesus, but she refused again.  Later that night, she saw a great bright star in the sky and then reconsidered going to look for the stable where Jesus was.  She had collected some toys of her own child that had died, to give to the baby Jesus.  But, she could not find the stable. So to this day, she goes around looking for Jesus and leaves toys for the good children, and coal for the bad ones.  Carbone Dolce is often used as the traditional joke in Italy, its rock candy that looks almost exactly like coal.

Some of the fine Italian traditions are still in place today.  Its not all about one day, but in fact from Christmas Eve (the real day of celebration, not Christmas Day), all the way to the Epiphany in January.

December 6 - Marks La Festa di San Nicola (Feast of St. Nicholas), the patron saint of shepherds is celebrated in towns likePollutri with the lighting of fires under enormous cauldrons, where fave beans are cooked, then eaten ceremoniously.

December 8 - L'Immacolata Concezione (Celebration of the Immaculate Conception)

December 13 - La Festa di Santa Lucia (St. Lucy's Day)

December 24 - La Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve)

December 25 - Natale (Christmas) Buona Natale! As they say!

December 26 - La Festa di Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day) Which marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ, and the arrival of the Three Wise Men.

December 31 - La Festa di San Silvestro (New Year's Eve)

January 1 - Il Capodanno (New Year's Day)

January 6 - La Festa dell'Epifania (The Epiphany)

Required Reading for Italian-Americans...


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