Italian tradition: which dishes do they eat during Christmas festivities

Which Italian traditional products are typical for Christmas?

We know that the Italian culinary tradition is among the richest in the world. Every region, every area has its typical products, linked to age-old traditions and recipes that go back in time.

This cultural heritage is still found today in many different products that continue these traditions, enrich them, and pass on the flavors and taste, perhaps with some modern reinterpretations.

The holiday season, in particular, is very rich in typical foods, ingredients, and dishes that are consumed around Christmas and into the new year.

Lentils for New Year’s Eve

Traditionally consumed during the New Year’s Eve dinner, along with the inevitable cotechino, they are not only a typical dish of tradition but also a dish that brings good luck (and money, they say).

Eating lentils immediately after midnight is a symbol of good luck, dating back to Roman times: due to their shape, they were compared to jingling coins, and their nutritional values were already known then.

Cotechino or Zampone

Cotechino or Zampone are the typical “star dish” to accompany lentils (but also with a lighter mashed potato).

These foods are consumed mainly between Christmas and New Year.
The content is the same (coarsely ground lean and fat meat), but the casing is different: the front leg of the pig for zampone, natural or artificial casing for cotechino.


Handmade Emilian pasta, rough and thin with manual closure.

There can be various fillings, but the typical one from Modena contains Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, cooked meat, and Mortadella Bologna.

A dish consumed on festive days since the Middle Ages, due to its rich and refined ingredients, typically eaten in broth as a Christmas first course.

Panettone or Pandoro

These are the typical desserts of the holidays: the soft and fluffy Pandoro from Verona, or the Panettone from Milano with raisins and candied fruit, but also made in many different variations (e.g., without raisins or candied fruit, but with chocolate chips).
They were made in these two cities of the North of Italy but they are now consumed all over the country.

They are the classic sweets that, accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine or champagne, conclude the Christmas and New Year’s meals.

Torrone or Mandorlato

Festivities are made for sweets and desserts.
Other typical sweets of this period, consumed after the meal along with chocolate, pandoro and panettone, are made with honey and sugar, filled with almonds, but also with walnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts.

Torrone and mandorlato are indeed classic end-of-meal treats during the Christmas season, very sweet but with a crunchy texture.

Torrone has a very ancient tradition, dating back to Roman times. Mandorlato, on the other hand, originated in the Cologna Veneta area (in the province of Verona) during the time of the Serenissima Republic of Venice: it is a typical sweet with a centuries-old history!

Zabaglione or Zabaione

You can call it Zabaglione, Zabaione or Zabaione but the product is the same: egg liqueur with an intense and unique flavor, mainly consumed during the Christmas season, especially after the meal.

It dates back to very ancient times: its presence is documented in Italy at least since the Middle Ages, but it has also become widely popular in the Anglo-Saxon world (the famous eggnog, very similar to Italian zabaglione).

Sparkling Wine or Champagne

Sparkling wines are perfect for celebrating Christmas or the arrival of midnight and the New Year.

Millions of hectoliters are consumed at the end of each year, both of our local Spumante and French Champagne.

Bubbles are ideal for accompanying dessert and toasting with company, but they are actually suitable for the whole meal (e.g., with raw fish).

Cold Cuts

How else to start a Christmas dinner or lunch if not with a hearty appetizer? Especially in some regions, this is one of the main moments of the meal, and the appetizer features many typical foods, not least of all, a wide selection of cold cuts from the region and beyond.

We find ham, both cooked and raw (such as Parma and San Daniele), coppa, culatello, Mortadella, many different types of salame (Felino, seasoned, cacciatore, salamella), speck and other traditional cold cuts.


The main course of the Christmas lunch varies according to tradition and geographic area, but one of the most widespread is always stuffed capon roast. 

Typical of the Emilian tradition, it is a dish found throughout Italy, perfect for celebrating the sumptuousness of the family’s holiday festivities.

h2 Fish in many ways

Fish-based dishes are mainly consumed during the Christmas Eve dinner, but they can also be a great basis for the New Year’s Eve dinner.

From fish-based appetizers to the typical southern Italian capitone, passing through elaborate and refined delicacies like bottarga.