An Italian Christmas: Traditional Italian Holiday Foods

Baked clams with bacon, roasted broccoli with hot pepper flakes and garlic, and baked flounder.
Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re celebrating an “Italian Christmas” then you’ve most likely heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  The traditional Christmas Eve dinner is steeped in folk tradition and as Maria Laurino writing for the NY Times has said, the ritual varies from region to region, including the number and type of fish served.
However, the Italian holiday season is comprised of more than just fish from a food perspective.  Depending on the region, you’ll find Italians celebrating the Christmas season with the following foods:
  • Cured meats or salumi according to what’s produced and eaten in the given region
  • Various cheeses according, again, to what’s produced and eaten in the given region
  • Cured Olives and pickled vegetables
  • Baked pasta dish or cheese filled pasta such as agnolotti, ravioli or tortellini
  • A light soup or brodo
  • Roasted wild game (in the South it could be goatrabbit, boar, etc.)
  • Lentils
  • Various fish, including eel and salted cod (it’s traditional not to eat meat on Christmas Eve)
  • Cotechino or New Year’s Sausage
  • Various side dishes including, broccoli, potatoes, zucchini or eggplants
  • Cookies or Buccellati
  • For dessert, which Italians traditional do not consume, you’ll find Panettone,  Pandoro and/or Pandolce
  • Torrone
  • Fresh fruit and fennel
Italian American holiday foods may contain some of the above items and I’m curious how you celebrate your Italian Christmas in the US?  Please share via a comment and happy holidays!  Oh, and if you’d like some guidance on how to shop for the best holiday foods see our guide on buying fruit, vegetables, and fish.


  1. This year we are going to try having salted cod on christmas eve along with some salads and veggies. On Christmas day we’ll have ravioli, meatballs, salads, olive tray, salami tray, deviled eggs, and other munchy foods. But we’ll have panettone french toast, bacon, sausage and juice for bunch.
    We combine Amercian and Italian foods for our holiday meals and are forging a new path with our traditions.
    It’s making some great new memories for the next generations.

  2. OK now I’m hungry…auguri to you and yours, Vince!

  3. Hi Michelle. I already started eating about a week ago and the holidays haven’t even started! All the best to you and your family, as well. Auguri and thanks for all your help this past year! Vince

  4. Michelle, I think that’s a great way to eat and celebrate. Our family does a few “new” things but the dishes are all pretty traditional: salted cod (fried and flaked with parsley, olive oil, and red onion), baked pasta dish or brodo, lots of vegetables, mussels, shrimp, fish salad, etc.
    Have a great holiday!

  5. Elisabetta Rosa LaSusa Pappas

    I love being Italian and everything about it, I always say that there are two kinds of food, Italian, and wel…..Italian, and there are also two kinds of people, Italians, and those who wish they were Italian. I am first and second generation Italian, and proud of it in every way,shape and form. I don’t go for the Mafia BS, that is not what Italians are about, we are about love, family, food, making love, and family, religion, all the good things, the other has nothing to do with us, they are just plain stupido. They are in a world of their own, and give Italians a bad name. Grazia, Cio,

  6. Food Guide to an Italian Christmas

    (photo: Florence during the Christmas holiday.  Image courtesy of this point in the holiday frenzy, you’re either preparing to host a holiday party or you’ve been invited to a Christmas Eve / Day dinner or party.  If you’v…

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