One of the most important Christmas traditions in Italy is the so called Cenone on the Christmas Eve.

“Cenone” literally means big dinner, so you can easily imagine how abundant and tasteful it is!

The Christmas Eve, within the Catholic religion, is one of the most sacred moment of the year; that is why originally the Christmas Eve dinner was a very simple meal and many people kept off food to show respect for the religious traditions.

Above all, meat was severely forbidden because it was considered a luxury food, whose consume was not respectful towards the Saviour’s birth.

Over the centuries, this religious tradition got weaker and weaker and the habit to eat fish, which is one of the most expensive food, spread over. That is why nowadays people buy the best fish to cook delicious dishes to share with their families on the 24th December.

dinner in italy

The Cenone is an amazing experience for your senses.

First of all, there are several different starters that fill the decorated table. They could be a proper dinner themselves!

Then, the classic dishes are fish soup, linguine with lobster or clams, grated scallops, baked sea bream, grilled shrimps and many others, everything accompanied by a good Italian wine.

As you probably know, there are some differences from the North to the South of Italy: for example, in the North people can’t help cooking the salted codfish, whilst in the South the most typical food is the eel.

Many lovely sweets and cakes end this rich dinner: the famous panettone or pandoro, a piece of handmade torrone and the regional little treats like dry fruits covered with chocolate.

After dinner families play cards and board games like tombola (very similar to Bingo), spending together a long night. But there is an appointment they can’t miss: at midnight they open all the presents kept under the Christmas tree and exchange the wishes, enjoying the time spent with their beloved.

Why don’t you experience an Italian style Cenone this year? Get ready!

And if you are in Christmas mood, read more about this festivity here.


Ready to start learning Italian after the Christmas holidays? Have a look here!