Aunt Grazia summarized a typical Italian family Christmas in one word that would describe the general atmosphere: chaotic. The prevailing impression of chaos derives from the vivacity of Italians, their rapidly moving hands, the gestures that accompany the flow of their talk. Joyous Christmas get-togethers are full of laughter, noise, everybody talking all at the same time, and bodies in constant motion as families are enjoying their sumptuous meal in kind and caring company. It is not uncommon to find as many as 25 family members gathered around a Christmas table at this occasion for parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to express their affection for each other. Traditionally Christmas in the South (and some central regions) are celebrated with a dinner on 24 December, whereas in other parts of Italy, including Tuscany, families gather together for a Christmas lunch on the 25th.
Usually lunch starts at around 12:30-1 p.m. with appetizers accompanied by prosecco. The aperitif is followed by a first course of pasta, maybe lasagna or tortellini or cappelletti in brodo. The second (main) course is either meat (guinea fowl, wild boar, pork) or fish. Before the desserts (panettone, pandoro, pan pepato, ricciarelli cookies) there is a wide selection of nuts, and dried and fresh fruit. This year cousin Roberto was the chef in charge of the menu of fish rather than meat dishes.
The appetizers included shrimp in a mayonnaise-based red sauce, salmon mousse spread and tuna spread served on toasted bread. The first course was a seafood pasta (pasta allo scoglio), followed by fish fillets cooked in white wine and topped with tomatoes and capers. Nuts, peanuts, pistachio, dried figs, dates, and fresh grapes, mandarins and pears were served before the selection of traditional Christmas pastries as well as a more unusual soft, moist cake called panbriacone.
Everything was simply delicious! And the Christmas lunch with family is what makes Christmas Christmas.