For Christmas this year, NIAF is highlighting a couple of Christmas traditions from each of Italy’s 20 regions, that perhaps is carried on in your Italian American family.
Struffoli – Neapolitan Christmas Dessert
These small fried dough balls with citrus zest and bathed in hot honey are enjoyed by the young, old, and Italian immigrant communities all over the world! As seen with the photo above, the presentation of struffoli is essentially struffolo piled one on top of the other and then decorated with sprinkles, sugar, or bits of candied fruits. Some families even present the struffoli in the shape of a wreath.
The name “struffoli” is traced from the Greek word “strongoulos,” meaning shaped like a ball or round in shape. Struffoli’s recipe is also very similar to the Greek loukoumades, which dates back to Magna Grecia Era.
The history of Campania’s struffoli is said to date back to convents in Italy where nuns would prepare and give struffoli to nobles as a thank-you for their generosity to the poor (and the convents) throughout the year.
In Naples (and at large Campania) today, struffoli is mainly a holiday treat. But for the rest of Italy, it is prepared and available during most festivities, especially religious holidays. You can even easily spot it during Carnevale.
Nonnabox offers and struffoli recipe to try if you don’t already have a family recipe.
Le Luci d’Artista – Christmas Lights in Salerno
Salerno, a town set between Naples and the Amalfi Coast attracts thousands of Italians from all over for its annual Luci d’Artista, where the historic center—its alleyways, piazze, ristoranti, case, the lungomare and all—are decked out in millions of Christmas lights. This magical open air exhibition is typically up from mid-November to mid-January, however, this year, due to Covid-19, the official Luci D’Artista has been canceled and reduced in scale, but we can still appreciate the photos of past years and look forward to 2021!
Usually, a theme is chosen and in 2018, the theme was marine life. The light shows included waves with fish, shells, and creatures from the seas, creating an overall effect of an acquarium of lights. Even the nativity fit the theme, being sculpted from sand. In 2019, the general theme was floral arrangements.
Although the installations are found all over Salerno, Leisure Italy suggests you to start your their walk down the main shopping street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, to where the grand nearly-100-feet-tall Salerno Christmas tree stands in splendor in Piazza Portanova. From there, keep exploring the Medieval center of the town along the historic Via dei Mercanti (do not miss the Cathedral of Salerno and the Temple of Pomona) to Piazza Largo Campo, the heart of the city’s nightlife. Once you leave the historic center of Salerno, you will find yourself at the Villa Comunale public gardens, where a magical “enchanted garden” is waiting! Last but not least, take a stroll along the Lungomare promenade, to shop at the Christmas market before ending your visit in Piazza Flavio Gioia.
Make sure to hop on the town’s ferris wheel in the Piazza della Concordia to enjoy a panorama of the city filled with lights before you leave.
Stay tuned for more Christmas in Italy posts! If you want NIAF to share a tradition, email us a description at email@example.com.