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Benvenuto nuovo anno!

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December 31st marks La Festa di San Silvestro, followed by Il Capodanno the next day, and Italians have many ways to commemorate the New Year! Read on to learn about some of the most common ones:

Food. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Italian celebration without food! On New Year’s Eve, Italians tend to eat a big dinner, and many foods make an appearance due to their symbolic value. Lentils are popular as they symbolize financial luck for the upcoming year, pork cotechino (a type of sausage) or stuffed pig trotters symbolize general good fortune, and grapes symbolize good luck. Some people eat dried fruit as a snack, and around midnight a popular regional cuisine is served along with Italian sparkling wines, either spumante or prosecco.

Activities. You won’t be bored on New Year’s Eve if you’re celebrating it Italian-style! A popular game played is Tombola, which is similar to bingo. There’s also public dancing and music and outdoor concerts to be found, and when midnight finally arrives, people enjoy plenty of fireworks. Some small towns also have bonfires. You better not get tired too early because parties can last until sunrise, as Italians enjoy staying up to see the first sunrise of the New Year. If you want to channel your inner Southern Italian, you can also throw all of your old stuff out the window, which represents your acceptance of the New Year!

And of course, don’t forget to wear something red for good luck (usually underwear)! Have a Happy New Year and tell us, do you take part in any Italian New Year’s Eve traditions?

Christmastime in Italy!

The holiday season is in full force yet again! Hopefully you’re getting all of your Christmas shopping done (if you need some suggestions, click here and here!) and have been able to enjoy all the seasonal decorations and activities. But what about all of the holiday activities and celebrations in Italy? Well, that’s what we’re here for, of course!

There are so many different celebrations and holidays that start at the end of November and go until the beginning of January, and covering them all would take a pretty long time, so we’ve picked some of the larger celebrations to give you a general idea about Christmastime in Italy!

Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception is held on December 8th, and it marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is a national holiday in Italy, and on this day, there are parades and other special events, churches have mass, and the Pope leads a ceremony by the Spanish Steps. Of course, you can also see typical Italian Christmas decorations and nativity scenes (presepi), and the Christmas markets usually open on this day too!

Of course, there’s Christmas Eve and Christmas, but they’re celebrated a little differently in Italy than in the United States. Christmas trees, Father Christmas (Babbo Natale), and giving presents on Christmas are becoming more popular, but traditionally, presents are given on the Feast of Epiphany (which we’ll get to in a minute!). On Christmas Eve, families eat a meat-less dinner. In southern Italy especially, some families celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes, which, as you could guess, consists of a dinner with seven different types of fish. Some families eat a dinner with a different number of fish, but typically it is an odd number that has some sort of significance. For example, some families eat 13 different types of fish because it supposedly represents Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. On Christmas, however, families eat a dinner with lots of meat, and the Pope gives a midnight mass and addresses the public at noon on Christmas Day. The day after Christmas is known as Saint Stephen’s Day, and it’s a national holiday too.

The Christmas season continues past December though, and Italians celebrate the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th. It commemorates the Wise Men’s visit to Jesus and the giving of gifts to him, so this is when Italians typically exchange presents! There are festivals on this day, and children also get toys from La Befana, a witch who flies around the night before and puts toys in the stockings of all the good children and coal in the stockings of all the bad ones.

There are many other celebrations held in different parts of Italy during this time, but those are some of the major ones for you! Does your family celebrate any of these Italian traditions? Let us know in the comments section below! And from all of us at La Piazza di Carolina, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We just couldn’t stop at 10…

Last week we posted our top 10 Italian Christmas picks, but afterwards, we realized 10 just weren’t enough, so here we are with round two! Take a look at 10 more spectacular items perfect for all your Italy-loving friends and family (and as usual, you can find all items on our store website!).

1. Ferrari Hot Wheels. Italy is known for producing sleek sports cars, and arguably one of the most well known manufacturers is Ferrari. We know that the real deal might be a little hard to afford, so for your auto-obsessed kids, why not give them a taste of the luxury vehicle with this Ferrari set from Mattel?

2. At-Home Wine Kit. Know somebody who has a fondness for wine? Instead of just drinking it, they can now make their own! Note: Stomping on grapes is not necessary 😉

3. Pizzelle Maker. Nope, it’s not a waffle maker. It’s a Piazzelle maker! Pizzelle are Italian waffle cookies, and we have to say, the snowflake design it produces is just too beautiful to resist!

4. Olivella Shampoo. Who doesn’t love olive oil? Keep your hair clean and fresh with this shampoo that takes advantage of extracts from our favorite oil.

5. Handmade Oil Bottle. And if you just so happen to have the real deal in your kitchen right now, why not store it in a beautiful handmade oil bottle straight out of Vicenza, Italy?

6. Italian Roast Espresso Coffee Beans. Sometimes it seems like you won’t be able to make it through the day without a cup of coffee, and isn’t it so much better when you can make a good cup at your house instead of having to buy it on the run?

7. Espresso Maker. But wait a minute! You need an espresso maker to make your espresso! Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

8. Taste of Italy Gift Basket. It doesn’t get much easier to give a bit of Italy to someone than with this “Taste of Italy” gift basket! Some of the contents include chocolate, olive oil, cookies, and pasta. Mmmm…

9. Italian Music. Giuseppe Verdi was an Italian composer mostly known for his operas. If you know someone who’s already a fan or is looking to get into opera music, this greatest hits CD could be right up their alley.

10. 2012 Italy Calendar. Don’t forget what day it is! Make it easy and invest in a calendar. The images of Italy will keep you inspired whenever you’ve got a case of the Mondays.

So there you have it! Ten more Italian-inspired Christmas gifts. Happy shopping and let us know if you have any further gift suggestions!