Christmas in Liguria

from Liguria Tourism

The Ligurian people celebrate the festive season in style with traditional festivities dating back to the Pagan and Roman times. Many Italians begin Christmas on 8th December with lights, decorations and a feast to mark the Immaculate Conception. Christmas holidays in Italy run through to Epiphany on the 6th January which is a festival to commemorate the three Wise Men arriving at the manger bearing gifts for baby Jesus, and this is when gifts are traditionally exchanged in Italy.

For those looking for unique and creative gifts, there are many beautiful Christmas Markets throughout Italy to browse in. Genova, the capital city of Liguria, has its own Mercatino di Natale (Christmas market) with many stalls selling arts, jewelry, candles, wine, local cuisine, handicraft products and much more.

'torrone' (nougat) and 'panforte' (gingerbread with hazelnuts, honey and almonds). In addition is the popular 'Pandolce,' the Christmas Bread of Genova traditionally prepared on the 23rd December. An Olive branch is placed on top of the cooked loaf as a sign of devotion to God and traditionally the oldest member of the family is the first to cut the loaf.

After visiting the Christmas market, holidaymakers can enjoy a traditional Christmas bonfire in the main square of each town where drinks are served and people gather to sing festive songs. The bonfire is part of a Pagan tradition whereby each community burns a Yule log which must stay alight until New Year's Day to symbolise the old year ending and its evils being destroyed.

Traditional Christmas Feasts

 In Liguria Christmas lunch is a big event where the whole family gathers. The first course is called 'Natalini' which is macaroni in capon broth, enriched with meatballs or sausage stew traditionally used to represent prosperity. After this is served the 'ravioli alla Genovese' (pasta filled with meat, sweetbreads, eggs) topped with tomato sauce (al tocco).The main course is similar to what is served in the UK which will make nostalgic visitors feel at home. Turkey is roasted and served alongside 'stecchi fritti', fried chicken giblet skewers with mushrooms and besciamella. The feast is then finished with a large helping of pandolce.

Traditional Christmas Cribs

A real delight for children are the Christmas cribs dotted around Liguria known as 'Presepi.' The biggest open air crib in the world can be found on the Tre Croci Hill. Using over 300 man-sized characters illuminated by 15,000 lightbulbs the crib is truly astounding and a highlight of any visit over Christmas. In the waterfront village of Vernazza the community makes a crib in one of the caves located in the bay. This is lit during Christmas Eve when the baby Jesus is brought ashore before the whole village visits the local church to celebrate mass.

 

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