Tag Archives: presepe

Christmas Traditions Old and New


It’s that time, once again, for the nostalgic thoughts that this Christmas season brings to  mind.  I am reminded of so many Christmas traditions which I grew up with, but also new ones that I have now made into traditions.  It seems that every generation adds something new to their Christmas.

Here are some old Italian traditions passed down from my parents:

My presepe (the Creche):


Panettone – the traditional Italian Christmas bread which is enjoyed with a cup of coffee or even better, with a glass of Asti Spumante or Champagne:


And, of course, the Christmas tree and all the house decorations:


A new tradition that makes up our family’s Christmas is spending a night in San Francisco to take in the vibrant Holiday scene and decorations.

Union Square - San Francisco

Union Square – San Francisco

The Hyatt Regency - San Francisco

The Hyatt Regency – San Francisco

The Palace Hotel - San Francisco

The Palace Hotel – San Francisco

Another of the new traditions that I have made my own is the formal Christmas Eve dinner.  As a child, we always celebrated Christmas Day and never Christmas Eve.  This made for a very busy Christmas Day:  present opening in the morning, rushing off to Mass, and then going to my aunt’s house for the big dinner.  This is how it was done in Northern Italy where my family is from and so they carried on the tradition when they came here. But when I got married, my husband’s family always celebrated Christmas Eve with a formal dinner followed by Midnight Mass.  I loved this tradition and so have made it my own.  I love the look of the elegant table lit by candles and with the glow of the Christmas tree in the background.  As families come together from different backgrounds, the best of the best becomes part of the Christmas traditions to be passed down to the next generation.  I’ll be anxious to see what becomes their new Christmas traditons!

Buon Natale, my dear readers, and may this Holiday season bring you all the magic of Christmas!

Natale in Italia Tanti Anni Fa….



I love to hear stories of my parents’ childhoods spent in Italy – their experiences are always so simple, but yet so full of joy even in the face of world crisis.  Ones that I cherish the most are those that surround Natale (Christmas).  In a world so caught up with the material aspect of Christmas, it is heartwarming to reminisce about the true meaning of Christmas and to relish in the mere simplicity of the season.  Even though my parents’ childhood was during World War II, and they suffered from lack of food and money, they still have such fond memories of their Christmas traditions.  My mom recalls those Christmases when they did not have a tree, but instead had il presepe (the manger) for the Baby Jesus.  Their figurines were all made out of cardboard, but yet they took the time to set up the scene as they thought best to honor the new baby Lord.  They would forage in the woods for fresh muschio (moss) to lay over the roof of the cardboard stable, and they would search for berries and other small plant material to decorate the scene.  If and when a present would come, it would always be from il Gesu` Bambino (the Baby Jesus), and they would treasure it because they knew it was special.  On those special years when they did have a Christmas tree, the ornaments consisted of mandarini (tangerines)!  Can you imagine how good their house must have smelled?  Fresh citrus mixed with the smell of pine! 

Meals at Christmas time were traditional as well.  On La Vigilia (Christmas Eve), they always had a fish meal…and then after midnight Mass, they would come home to some brodo (broth) to warm their bones!  On these nights, they didn’t get to bed until very late…but they didn’t have to wake up early for any present opening marathons – they were fortunate if the Gesu` Bambino had left just one present.  But they didn’t seem to mind – they were happy just with the feeling of the special day surrounded by their family and friends.  Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to have that simplicity again, instead of feeling stressed over getting the right gift for everyone on your Christmas list, and rushing around with all the crazy mobs in the stores and on the streets?  If we just stopped to realize that Christmas isn’t about how many presents are under the tree, but instead about sharing the love of family and friends and savoring in the realization that you don’t need the material objects to feel the true meaning of Christmas. 

Buon Natale, cari amici del blog, e spero che lo spirito della stagione vi riempie di gioia.

Merry Christmas, dear blogging friends, and I hope that the spirit of the season fills you with joy.