Christmas with the family
In fact, the subject is such a staple that many Italian movies, books and stage shows have been inspired by it through the years – sometimes as bittersweet analysis, sometimes as all-out farces, but always rather good successes thanks to how the topic resonates with the people. There even is a proverbial saying going “Natale con i tuoi, pasqua con chi vuoi” (literally “Christmas with your family, Easter with those you wish to have around”), stressing the often compulsory and unwanted tradition. Most Italian Christmas family gatherings are of course nice, happy events. They generally focus on the grand eve dinner: a long affair with especially rich and expensive dishes, as a celebration of prosperity and a wish for even better luck on the coming year. As explained in other posts, the “Seven fishes” tradition is completely bunk and no actual Italian ever heard of it, but it is true that the Christmas eve dinner often features fish. This is partly because smoked salmon, lobster, caviar and other aquatic delicacies have long been very expensive and thus best reserved for special celebrations, and partly due to the faint echoes of a Catholic tradition of not eating meat on religious holidays.