When I met, married and had children with a gorgeous Italian man, I knew we would want to keep the culture, traditions and language of both sides of their families. Rob speaks to Biscuit and Cracker purely in Italian, we have children’s TV, films and books in Italian as well as English and we’ve already taken them over to Italy to meet the family. We want them to be proud of their dual heritage.
I have already blogged about the traditions we are starting in our house and this has led me to research Italian Christmas traditions to see how to incorporate them into Casa S’s Christmas.
The tradition Rob has told me about many times before is La Befana. La Befana is a kind witch who visits children on the night of 5th January (Epiphany). There are many different myths and stories about why La Befana brings treats to children. These range from the story of how the Three Wise Men asked her to accompany them to find Jesus and she refused as she was too busy, but then regretted not going with them so went out to find them and the Baby Jesus to the slightly more disturbing myth of La Bafana being a bereaved mother who believed that the Baby Jesus was her son and so went out to find him. In all stories told, because she was late leaving, La Bafana never found Jesus so instead goes to visit each child to reward the good ones with sweets and treats and to give the naughty ones coal. We will definitely put the stocking out on the 5th January so they can wake up to some treats.
A tradition that Rob did not know about, but that I think would be a nice alternative to a Christmas Tree would be the Il Ceppo or The Tree of Light. This is a large wooden triangle shape with tiers of shelves within the frame. You use this frame to not only display the Nativity Scene, but also to put decorations, small gifts and treats and lights on. As with a usual Christmas Tree, a star or small fairy is put on top. We already have two nativities in our living room, one a small wooden one from my childhood and a much more child-friendly Fisher Price Nativity Set, which the twins love playing with. Having somewhere specific and special to display them in our living room would be wonderful. I will have to go about finding out how Il Ceppo is made and if I will be able to get one here for next Christmas.
Of course, as with a lot of Italian traditions, there is a lot of food involved in the Italian Christmas. I, personally, am not sure I could manage a first course of pasta or Lasagna before the roast dinner part of Christmas lunch as they do but I am (of course) willing to try! Typical Italian sweet breads such as panettone and panforte are already becoming much more mainstream in the UK as many of the supermarkets stock them alongside the mince pies and Christmas puddings. I think, for us, it will be about incorporating our favourite parts of our childhood meals into our family Christmas dinner and enjoying that all together.
Above all we are going to spend Christmas as a family doing (and eating) things that we enjoy and trying to make it as special as we can for Biscuit and Cracker.