Spring by Kathryn White

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Armchair Travel Tuesday: Buon Natale!

Traditions are very important to our family and we have many fond memories of past Christmas celebrations. One of the traditions we have developed and embraced over the years may not seem very traditional to some, but for us it has become a special part of our Christmas season. It began in part because we home-schooled the children when they were younger and used this approach to teach them about Christmas celebrations around the world. When our girls were older, they became involved with an organization called YWAM where they spent time in other countries.
We have studied and experienced countries such as China, India, Egypt, The Netherlands, Ireland, England and Wales, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and last year it was Indonesia,
all through arm chair travel from the comfort of our home.
This year when we were discussing which country to choose, two of our children suggested Italy in part because of their wonderful cuisine. Research was done and menus were discussed. Here is what we have learned so far:

In Italy, the Christmas season is filled with much music and singing. The streets, shops and homes are decorated with the presepe, Nativity scene or creche. Almost every church has a presepe and they are often found outdoors in a piazza or public area, too.
Italians take great pride in the creation of the manger, which was thought up in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to involve the peasants in celebrating the life of Jesus.
Special prayers and church services called
"novena" last for nine days prior to Christmas
followed by Mass on Christmas morning.

"Bagpipes are the most common Italian Christmas sound. The zampognari, the shepherds who play the bagpipes, come down from their mountain homes at Christmas time and perform in the market squares. The playing of bagpipes is popular in the regions of Calabria and Abruzzo, and in the piazzas of Rome.
The melodies played are adapted from old hill tunes. Modern zampognari wear the traditional outfits of sheepskin vests, leather breeches, and a woolen cloak.
The tradition of bagpipes goes back to ancient Roman times. Legend says that the shepherds entertained the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem...."
You can read more about it here.

Although we haven't finalized our menu, we will be making the meatball soup as well as a variety of pasta dishes.
"When it comes to the Christmas season in Italy, there are three sweet treats that you’ll find popping up in every supermarket in town: Panettone, Pandoro, and Torrone.
Panettone and Pandoro are typical Christmas cakes, while Torrone is a nougat bar made with egg whites, honey and sugar, and usually with hazelnuts or almonds as well. It generally comes out only around Christmas time and has both a crunchy and soft version, and can be white or chocolate, or other flavors, and sometimes is also covered in chocolate."
Tiramisu is one of the most popular Italian desserts which we plan to make and serve following our meal.

And biscotti, as referred to by Italians, is a twice-baked cookie served with a good strong coffee making for a great Italian treat.
You can read more about Italian Christmas celebrations here.

Andrea Bocelli, born in Tuscany in Italy, has become one of Italy's most-beloved tenor/opera performers. He is also the biggest-selling solo artist in the history of classical music.
We have been enjoying his new Christmas CD this season. You can listen to his rendition of Silent Night here: