How to Host Christmas Dinner Italian-Style

The majority of holiday celebrations around the world involve indulging in delicious feasts; however, the foods we eat and the traditions we practice vary. In Italy, elaborate dishes are the center of everyday meals and are emphasized at Christmas! If you’re looking to expand your horizons this holiday season, use the following tips to host an Italian-inspired, multi-course meal that embraces age-old Italian customs and creates priceless (and delicious!) memories with friends and family.

The Christmas Eve meal is traditionally meatless – instead, Italians enjoy a diverse variety of fish, also known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Don’t let this seven-course feast intimidate you. Fill your menu with familiar, easy-to-prep dishes that take some heat off of the host. Shrimp Toasts and seafood spreads containing crab, salmon or salted cod are crowd-pleasing starters that are perfect for preparing in advance. For the main courses, pasta and stews symbolize iconic Italian classics. Shrimp Alfredo, seafood linguine with clams or mussels, cioppino and Bouillabaisse are all dishes that showcase succulent seafood beautifully. Maple-Walnut Crusted Salmon and Classic Lobster Rolls are additional impressive dishes that make a big statement in your seafood lineup.

Don’t forget dessert! Both light and fluffy, panettone and pandoro are two Christmas cakes that your guests won’t want to miss. Panettone is studded with raisins or candied fruits, and pandoro is a moist, bright yellow cake (traditionally star-shaped) that’s dusted with powdered sugar. Serve these sweet treats with sauces like caramel, chocolate or maple syrup.

To follow ancient Italian tradition, keep the table set after everyone is finished eating; it’s believed that the Madonna (Mary) and baby Jesus will come to taste the food. The Christmas season in Italy begins December 8th and ends January 6th – providing many opportunities to practice and experience these time-honored traditions.

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