Italy’s diverse traditions and multicultural background are best expressed in the cuisine of this festive period. The ingredients of the traditional Christmas dinner “Cenone” and the cakes served may present considerable differences among different areas of the country.
In the South the meals of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are based on seafood. In the North both meat and fish is served. What all Italians share, however, is dried fruit, including dried figs, figs with almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and dates.
Regional desserts consumed through out the country are Panettone (leavened sweet dough filled with raisins, currents and candied fruits), Pandoro, (dough with a lot of butter to give it a golden appearance), Panforte (dough made of a mixture of ginger bread, honey, candied fruits, nuts and spices)and Torrone (almond nougat).
Italians are renowned for their culinary traditions and so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are not the only times during the winter holiday that special meals are served. On New Years Eve there is the feast of San Silvestro and lastly the Feast of Epiphany. Lentils are traditionally eaten on New Years Day in Italy as a symbol of good luck and prosperity; their round shape, reminiscent of coins, is supposed to ensure riches for the coming year.