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How to Celebrate Christmas Eve, the Italian Way

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In Italy, Christmas Eve dinner is arguably as important as the meal on Christmas Day (if not more in some households). In some families, the 24th of December is the most celebrated part of the Christmas holidays, and after dinner, children get to open presents and everyone stays to attend midnight mass.

Photo by Emiko Davies

By tradition, no meat is consumed on the eve of important Roman Catholic holidays like Easter and Christmas, which means dinner is usually celebrated with a sumptuous four-course seafood meal (though it wasn't always that way, my Tuscan in-laws remember Christmas Eve dinner as a simple, down to earth meal of pasta e ceci and anchovies).


Here's a menu for celebrating Christmas Eve, the Italian way:

Baccalà mantecato, a favorite Venetian antipasto of creamed salted cod on baguette crostini, is the perfect party starter and goes wonderfully with a glass of prosecco.

Photo by Emiko Davies

This seafood spaghetti baked in paper parcels is not only easy to prepare in advance, but also looks so pretty on the table.

Photo by Emiko Davies

For mains, bake your favorite white fish fillets with butter and sherry, like in this Genius recipe.

Photo by James Ransom

Fennel and blood orange salad should be your go-to winter salad for just about any occasion, but it's especially great with fish.

Photo by Emiko Davies

And for dessert, lemon granita refreshes the palate and makes an elegant dessert (and if you wanted to get in the festive mood, you could even turn it into a sgroppino cocktail).

It's not all about going over the top; after all, the next day there's round two, with the Christmas Day meal to enjoy too!

Photos by Emiko Davies, Emiko Davies

What do you serve on Christmas Eve? Share with us in the comments!

Tags: italian, christmas eve, seafood