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How Italian American families celebrate holidays



Every culture in the world has its holiday traditions, and Italian culture is no exception. To celebrate major holidays, both native Italians and Italian-Americans take part in family celebrations, ceremonies, and rituals that have been down for generations.

If you’re in an Italian-American family and you wish to honor your Italian heritage, there are holiday traditions you can practice with your family to connect with your roots.

  1. Celebrating the feast of the seven fishes

The Feast of Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve tradition for many Italian-American families. This tradition is made of a meal that features seven different types of fish or any type of seafood. Traditionally, the person in charge of cooking the meal prepares the food in different ways.

One meal can be fried while another can be a combination of pasta and seafood. The different ways of preparing the meal give the Italian cooks an opportunity to show their creativity in the kitchen as well as their cooking skills.

Italians choose the number seven as they associate the number with the seven sacraments. Italian holidays are often intertwined with religion; hence they may have their significance tied to religion.

  1. Celebrating Lancio dei Cocci

The Lancio dei Cocci is a New Year’s Eve tradition that is practiced at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Italians throw out old dishware through the window. The significance of this tradition is to symbolize the letting go of old negative feelings of the past year and embracing new experiences that will come in the new year.

Italians who do not want to throw out their dishes, they still celebrate Lancio dei Cocci but in a different way by banging on walls or shutting cabinets loudly.

Easter traditions

Easter holidays are a big deal for Italians as well as Italian-American families. Italian-Americans celebrate the Easter season in the following ways:

  1. The Feast of St. Joseph

For many Italian-Americans, the Saturday that is closest to March 19 is not just any other day. It is the day that they take to the streets and hold celebrations and parades in honor of St. Joseph. These parades are held on the sections Italian-American streets in major cities.

The St. Josephs celebrations are often described as an Italian equivalent of St. Patrick’s Day by those who participate in it and those who come out to watch it. New Orleans hosts the biggest celebration of St. Joseph’s Day, in the United States where the tradition of St. Joseph’s Day altar is observed.

Families prepare offerings to give to the saint that includes pastries, wine, grapes, fish, candles, and flowers like lilies.

After the parade, families gather together to eat. In Italian-American families, the food prepared to celebrate this holiday includes zeppole, ricotta, ham, and fried calzones that are filled with mozzarella. To complete the feasting dessert that is zeppole di San Giuseppe is served.

  1. Pasquetta

In Italian culture, Easter celebrations do not come to an end on Easter Sunday. On Easter Monday, families come together to celebrate pasquetta. Pasquetta is a family reunion in which everyone in the family gets to enjoy a meal of cheese and other delicious foods. Families can gather at a park to eat together as they enjoy the spring weather.

  1. Colomba di Pasqua

The Easter session has many holidays that are celebrated by Italians. Colomba di Pasqua is one of the holidays that involve food. Many Italian-American families bake the Colomba di Pasqua during Easter. This dish is a cake that is traditionally baked in the shape of a dove. The dove is a representation of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Easter mass

On Easter Sunday, many Italians gather in Rome to attend the Easter Mass delivered by the pope. However, Italian-Americans who are in the States they may not attend the mass physically. That said, you can follow the Easter Mass on tv or live stream it and celebrate the Easter holiday with your fellow Italians remotely.

Italian-Americans also attend Easter Mass in their local churches to mark this holiday that is highly regarded in Italian culture.

  1. Carnevale and Lent

During Lent. Italians abstain from eating meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday. On the days that meat is not consumed, Italian-Americans eat dishes with pasta, eggs, and beans. There are families that also prepare Lenten dinners that consist of pasta fagioli, which is a soup made from beans and pasta or an egg and pasta soup known as pastina.

Christmas traditions

  1. Giving gifts after All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is a popular holiday in the Italian culture. Italian-Americans celebrate this holiday by living gifts for their children the day following All Saints’ Day, and when the kids ask who the gift is from, the answer is not Santa. According to the Italian culture, the gifts given to kids after All Saints’ Day are left by the souls of the dead.

  1. Dressing up

In the spirit of Christmas, it’s a tradition in the Italian culture for children to dress up as shepherds to represent the shepherds who visited during Christmas. This tradition is related to Catholicism. In Italian-American family’s children can dress up as shepherds and visit neighboring homes singing carols. The dressing up is done on the 23rd of December.

  1. Christmas Day

Who doesn’t love Christmas? Christmas holiday is greatly celebrated by Italians and also Italian-Americans. During the Christmas season, cookies are the main pastries prepared in Italian-American homes are cookies.

Some of the cookies enjoyed during the Christmas holiday include chiacchiere, struffoli, sesame seed cookies, pizzella, calcionetti, and savory ringed tarallli. All these cookies come from the Southern regions of Italy.

Italian-Americans who cannot bake at home prefer getting their Christmas holiday cookies from Italian bakeries to get an original taste of Italian cookies.

Whether it’s Christmas or Easter, Italian-Americans celebrate these holidays according to the Italian culture to keep them connected with their roots as well as bring them together as a family to celebrate the holidays. Children also get to learn about their culture.

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