Cucina Pasta-bilities: Advent in Italy December 15 2016, 0 Comments

Italy is full of rich traditions, especially during Advent, the time of preparation before Christmas. Because of this time of preparation, the Italians, based on their Catholic heritage, celebrate many feast days that help them get into the Christmas spirit of selfless giving.

St. Nicholas - December 6th 

St. Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus, was born in Turkey to a wealthy family. Tradition has it that as a young man, St. Nicholas heard about a young family whose father was unable to provide for the children. He climbed on the roof and threw bags of gold down the chimney to help the family. According to the story, one of the bags fell into a stocking or a shoe that was by the fireplace. To this day, different cultures still celebrate St. Nicholas’ feast day on December 6th by placing little gifts for each other in stockings or shoes.

Immaculate Conception and Presepe – December 8th

St. Francis of Assisi first commissioned the construction of a Nativity scene or Presepe in 1223. From that year, on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Italians have continued the tradition of setting up elaborate presepe often with the entire scene or village. 

St. Lucia – December 13th

On December 13th  Italian’s celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, a young girl from the early days of Christianity, who gave up her life for her faith. Traditionally, St. Lucy visits homes on the evening before December 13th, on the back of a donkey, bearing gifts for good children. The children will prepare food and drink for  her and her donkey, as refreshment on their nighttime journey. They go to bed early because the know that if they’re awake, she’ll pass by their house without stopping!

La Befana - Epiphany

Even after Christmas, Italians continue celebrating the Christmas season with the 12 Days of Christmas, which culminates on Epiphany, or January 6th. One of their traditions is that of La Befana, the good witch who got lost and dropped off presents. According to tradition, the Magi stopped for the night at an old woman’s house. They explained that they were following a star that would lead them to a newborn king. When they continued their journey in the morning, they invited her to join them but she declined because she was busy cleaning. She later realized the newborn king was the long-awaited Redeemer and tried to follow them but lost her way. Since then, her regret at not joining the Magi was so great that she continues to wander, giving her gifts to good children on Epiphany.