Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”
For November, I am featuring a blogger who lives in Vicenza Italy, whose name is Rossi, from the blog, Rossi Writes. She has so kindly created a list of wonderful things to do in Northern Italy during the Christmas season in Italy under the title: “Christmas Guide 2018 for Northern Italy – The Complete List of Christmas Markets, Events and Happenings.”
Visiting Italy during Christmas time has been on my bucket list for years. I always go during the spring or summer, and yet from the photos I’ve seen, Italy is just as magical – or maybe even more so – during the Christmas season, with towns sparkling with lights and shops and churches decked out in their special holiday displays. When I read Rossi’s list of holiday concerts and events, I can almost feel the mounting excitement of the Christmas season.
In her own words, Rossi says about herself:
Hello! I am Rossi – a Bulgarian currently living in Italy after a 14-year stint in England. This is my blog about my life in these three countries, travels around Europe and opinions about the world we live in.
My blog Rossi Writes was started in November 2014 and currently has over 350 articles on several topics: from what to do and how to settle in Vicenza, in particular, and Italy, in general, to travel diaries and personal thoughts on a variety of themes – expat life, food, travelling with a baby/toddler, dealing with life as it is to name but a few.
I hope some of you get to visit Italy during this Christmas season. And, if you go to Northern Italy, hopefully you can experience the sights and sounds graciously listed in Rossi’s blog for us all to enjoy.
To all my friends who love all things Italian… Warm wishes for a wonderful holiday!
Il 24 di Dicembre
This special Italian saying for the December holidays was originally posted by Rita from our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. Special thanks to E. L. Word for the Italian photo and Italian language.
We would love to hear what you have to say about your experiences learning Italian and visiting or living in Italy. Join our open Facebook group and share about all things Italian! —Kathryn Occhipinti
The event took place at Casa Italia in Stone Park, the cultural center and central meeting place for Italian-Americans in the Chicagoland area for many decades. There was a wonderful turnout that day for this event, and there were many, many varieties of cuccidati, all beautifully presented and available to taste.
We had dozens and dozens of cuccidati to sample – all donated for benefit of Casa Italia – from local bakeries and also from individual families. The family recipes had, of course, been handed down through the generations, and many recipes were proudly displayed along with their cookies. There were more than 20 different varieties! There was a contest for the best bakery cookie and also the best homemade cookie. There was a demonstration as well.
All this is to say that I was really looking forward to this event, and it did not disappoint in the number and variety of cuccidati available. Making this cookie with my mother, aunts, and now my children, has always been a highlight of the Christmas season for me. I was looking forward to sharing this tradition with members of the community that I have come to know in Chicagoland, and so excited that they, too, shared special memories of the same Christmas treats that I loved.
Although, a funny thing happened. I found out that the cookies that my family makes and calls “cuccidati,” are not exactly what were made that day. In fact, all of the varieties that day used a fig filling, while my family recipe uses a combination of raisins, almonds, and citrus. So, I did a bit of research, and although I have not found the exact recipe for my family’s cookie online, I have found many similar recipes. I have an idea that it is just one of many similar “types” of Sicilian Christmas cookies that have developed over the years.
Visit the recent Learn Italian!blog post from December 1, 2017, to read about my family’s cuccidati method if you like. An excerpt is below.
I’d love to hear from anyone who makes a cookie with similar shapes or a similar filling! And, whatever your family traditions this holiday season, I wish everyone, ” Auguri di buone feste natalizie!”
Italian Christmas traditions are unique to each region of the Italy and have been lovingly handed down within families through the generations. Cuccidati – a version of Christmas cookie that probably originated after the Arabs introduced oranges and almonds to Sicily centuries ago – play an important part in the Christmas celebration in Sicily even today.
All Sicilian cuccidati, or any Italian cookie for that matter, are unlike what Americans think of when they think of cookies. Most Italian cookies are made from dough that cooks up drier than American cookies and there is much more variation in the presentation. Sicilian cookies come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes and fruit fillings are often enclosed in the cookies as a special treat.
The recipe given below is for a Sicilian Christmas cookie—my family calls them “cuccidati,” although they are not identical to most of the cookies found online under this name. The cookies in this recipe start out as the “typical” cuccidati: one long “tube” of sweet, Italian pie-crust-like dough, which contains a dried fruit and nut center. (No figs in our version, by the way.) But, instead of then cutting the tube into bite-sized pieces that are finished with icing, my family cuts larger pieces, which are then formed into different shapes, and finishes the cuccidati with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Whatever the name, this is just one version out of many dried, fruit-filed cookies still made in Sicilian bakeries today to celebrate the Christmas season.
When I was a child, my family always gathered the weekend before Christmas to share our creativity while we formed our cuccidati into wreaths, ribbons, or candy cane-like forms. They could be completely covered in dough, which would allow for a creative, fringe-like covering, or left open. The sides could be pinched for decoration if like, similar to how Americans form a pie crust along the rim of their pies. If you would like to see how the various shapes of these cookies are made, visit the Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest site.
The ingredients for the cuccidati filling are considered easy to come by today, but remember that dried fruit, including raisins and oranges and spices like cinnamon were considered special when the cookies originated. These filling ingredients were only found only in well-off households. Since the filling ingredients are difficult to chop and mix together, in some Sicilian towns “back in the day,” people would bring their filling to the butcher to mix together for them in his meat grinder, which had been newly cleaned for the season for this purpose.
Despite the few ingredients in traditional cuccidati, and the difficulty of making the filling with them, the dried fruit has a rich sweetness, the roasted almonds a robust flavor, and the cinnamon, orange, and citron add a complexity of flavor that goes beyond its simple ingredients. Try our recipe this Christmas season for a taste of Sicilian tradition! —Kathryn Occhipinti
Click here for the recipe and method to make cuccidati.
To all my friends who love all things Italian… Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.
Il 24 di Dicembre
This special Italian saying for the December holidays was originally posted by Luisella in Italy from our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. We would love to hear what you have to say about your experiences learning Italian and visiting or living in Italy. Join our open Facebook group and share about all things Italian! —Kathryn Occhipinti
Luisa: Se tutti donassero amore nel giorno di Natale tutti conoscerebbero la gioia di vivere.
Kathryn: For all that give love on the day of Christmas, they will be given (by God) the joy of life.