In the Italian Catholic tradition, Christmas Eve is a day of abstinence from meat so the celebratory dinner features fish – sometimes as many as seven courses of fish! Many families attend midnight mass after the Christmas Eve dinner, but in the mountainous Dolomites thrill seekers instead ski down the slopes with large torches at midnight. Lunch on Christmas Day is the most important feast of the Christmas season. Tortellini soup, roasts, and sausages are especially popular in Northern Italy. For dessert, il torrone, a nougat, and a variety of light, bread-like cakes are common treats. The panettone cake is filled with candied fruits while the il pandoro is sweeter and without the candied fruit. Il panforte, a gingerbread with hazelnuts, honey, and almonds, is also popular and would be my choice (if chocolate wasn’t available!). Italian traditions involving Christmas presents are varied. Many Italians open their presents after the Christmas lunch, but some families wait until January 6, when it is believed that la befana— the “good witch” who is believed to have followed the wise men, but got lost—brings presents to children. I’m sure it’s a struggle to get the little ones to wait that long to open their presents!