Christmas in Tuscany

During the Christmas period in Tuscany the streets are illuminated with Christmas lights and shops and houses are decorated. In Tuscany Christmas is, as in the rest of Italy, celebrated with many traditions, which can vary from region to region, but also from family to family.

Florence, Piazza del Duomo
The Christmas season traditionally begins on 8 December, the day of the Immaculate Conception. This is the last holiday in Italy before Christmas. December 8 is a bank holiday which makes it the ideal opportunity to decorate the Christmas tree and unpack the Christmas crib. The decorated trees are kept out until 6 January. January 6 is another bank holiday, Epiphany, which is better known as La Befana. On that day an old witch with good intentions (la befana) brings gifts to the children, a popular tradition which is very similar with Santa Claus.

Siena, Piazza del Campo
In most cities and in all churches you will find a Christmas crib. In some cities or villages there is a certain rivalry to have the best or biggest Nativity scene. Christmas markets are frequent. In Siena the Christmas market is on Piazza del Campo, the square where the Palio takes place in the summer. In Florence you can find Christmas markets and stalls almost everywhere in the city centre and in Grosseto there is an Ice-skating rink in the pedestrian zone. 

In Lucignano, in the province of Arezzo, each year on the Sunday before Christmas there is one of Tuscany's largest and most traditional Christmas markets, with stalls selling figurines for Christmas cribs, Christmas decorations, rag dolls, wooden toys, leather goods, and typical local products such as truffle, sheep cheese (pecorino), ham, meats, honey, jam and Christmas cakes.

On Christmas Eve the whole family comes together because Christmas is a real family gathering. As usual the Christmas dinner is a real treat because la mamma makes the most delicious homemade dishes. Christmas Eve is also called the night of the 7 dinners. This tradition has a religious origin and is a reference to the 7 sacraments. A traditional menu in Tuscany, for example, could be like this: pasta with chickpeas, toasted bread with Tuscan cabbage, pasta with nuts, baked cod, marinated olives, and finally for dessert dough rings and Panforte both prepared with chestnut flour.

Panforte throwing tournament
In the area around Siena and Grosseto during the Christmas period people play a game with this panforte. The relatively heavy, round cake is launched onto a table from a certain distance. The cake lands on the table and slides towards the end of the table. The goal is to make the cake stop as close as possible to the farthest edge of the table without falling off. Since a few years from 26 to 30 December in Pienza near Siena a real tournament of "Panforte throwing” is organized.

During dinner the Italians put on the television to watch the Holy Mass celebrated by the Pope in Rome, or after dinner they go to the midnight Mass.

On Christmas day the main event in Tuscany is the Christmas lunch. On the menu there are several starters (antipasti) followed by 2 to 3 different pastas (primi), meat with vegetables, cheese, fruit and desserts, all this with delicious local wine.

Tuscany is a region where hunting is very widespread and December is hunting season so most Tuscans eat wild boar. Other typical Christmas dishes are: toast with truffle, chicken pie, broth of capon, guinea fowl in the oven, duck, pork liver and thrush with lamb’s lettuce, stuffed capon or turkey, oven dish with cardoon.

The Christmas dessert is different in every region and every area in Italy has its own typical Christmas desserts.
In the Siena and Grosseto area you will find Panforte, Panpepato, Ricciarelli and Cavallucci, (Pictures from Panificio Il Magnifico in Siena) but also the traditional Christmas desserts like Torrone or the cakes like Panettone and Pandoro, which are originally from Northern Italy.

Finally, Boxing Day is known as Santo Stefano in Italy and is also a public holiday. 

Buon Natale a tutti!  

Merry Christmas! 

Villa with pool in Lucignano Arezzo Tuscany

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