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.
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.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.