Christmas is celebrated all over the world, and each culture has traditions. Christmas is special in Italy; specific foods are eaten only during the holiday season. This blog post will look at what Italians eat on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We will explore traditional Italian Christmas cuisine, including seafood dishes!

Italians typically celebrate Christmas Eve with dinner and Christmas Day with lunch, though this year is far from typical. Every region has its traditional fare for the holidays, making the gastronomical celebrations a delightfully varied experience usually enjoyed in the company of family members.


Feast of the Seven Fishes

In Italy, the Christmas Eve dinner is typically meat-free. It consists of seven different types of seafood – known as the ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes‘ in Italian-American culture. Seven is a number with tremendous significance in numerous cultures; it symbolizes completeness, flawlessness and solidarity.

This feast comprises seven exquisite seafood dishes, such as eel, baccala (cured cod), calamari, and shrimp.

The key is moderation for those wanting to commit to seven seafood dishes in one meal. Instead of serving an overly large main dish with seven whole fish, spread out the flavor profiles throughout a variety of small appetizers, soups, pasta, and sides that focus on seafood as their primary ingredient. This way, your dinner guests can experience all seven courses without feeling overly full!

This meal includes a variety of delicious salads, such as insalata di rinforzo (a salad with escarole, olives and anchovies), caponata with herbs, or radicchio tossed with olive oil. Salami-style appetizers are also popular choices.

Italian Christmas Eve dinner
Christmas Eve dinner in Italy.

Italian Christmas Eve Meals

In Italy, families come together for Christmas eve dinner. It’s a family affair! Italians need to have delicious, traditional meals that bring everyone together.

According to Catholic customs, meat is prohibited from being consumed on the nights before holy days. Consequently, Italians typically indulge in a fish feast on Christmas Eve as an alternative. The main course is usually a variety of seafood dishes, including shrimp, squid or octopus in tomato sauce, stuffed calamari, clams cooked with white wine and garlic, or baked fish.

Pasta is also a popular choice. Some traditional recipes include spaghetti with clams, ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach, or pumpkin-filled mezzelune. Potatoes or other pastries may also be served as side dishes.

The desserts are usually regional delicacies and vary from region to region. Some popular choices include panettone, pandoro (a round sweet bread sprinkled with powdered sugar), and torrone (a traditional Italian nougat candy).

Italian Christmas Day Meals

Christmas Day lunch is an important event where friends and family reunite, sit around the table, engage in conversation, and share jokes – all while savouring delectable dishes! Eating (a lot) of delightful cuisine is unquestionably the main agenda of this important celebration.

All across Italy, the traditional Christmas Day feast has remained consistent for generations, and it consists of the following:

  • The antipasti: An array of carefully selected cured meats, cheeses and delightful fried finger foods
  • The pasta: This course could be gnocchi, ravioli or spaghetti – depending on the region.
  • The main course: This usually features roasted or grilled meat, such as pork, lamb, beef or rabbit.
  • The contorni (side dishes): This consists of an array of seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes and bell peppers.
  • The dolci (desserts): Sweet treats highlight the meal! Some traditional desserts include panettone, pandoro or tiramisu.
Christmas antipasti dish
An antipasti dish for Christmas


From prosciutto to Parmigiano-Reggiano, a classic antipasti selection features cured meats and cheeses. Garlic bread or bruschetta is also part of this course, helping to prepare the palate for the main dishes.

In the north of Italy, you may find polenta croutons topped with Gorgonzola cheese or Piedmontese bagna cauda (a garlic and anchovy dip). Meanwhile, focaccia, arancini (rice balls filled with cheese and other ingredients) and caponata are popular in the south.

Pasta Course

Pasta is an essential component of the Christmas feast. Common recipes include lasagne, ravioli, linguine or spaghetti accompanied by delicious sauces. Pesto alla Genovese (Ligurian pesto), ragù Napoletano (Neapolitan meat sauce) and pesto Trapanese are some of the most popular choices.

Main Course

The main course usually consists of roasted or grilled meat, such as pork, lamb, beef or rabbit. Some regions have their specialities, such as cotechino (boiled sausage) in Lombardy and zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter) in Emilia-Romagna.

Contorni (Side Dishes)

The contorni usually consists of seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes and bell peppers. Carrots, mushrooms or potatoes may also be served as side dishes.

Dolci (Desserts)

Tiramisu, panettone, pandoro and cannoli are some of the most typical Italian desserts. You may also find sweet ravioli filled with ricotta cheese or fruit pies decorated with marzipan in certain regions.

No matter what region of Italy you’re in, Christmas is a special occasion where friends, family and food come together to create an unforgettable celebration.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about delicious dishes Italians enjoy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Buon Natale a tutti! (Merry Christmas to all!)

Happy Holidays from Italy!