Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Christmas, Italian Style

Italians really know how to celebrate Christmas, called Natale in Italian. It's not about tacky decorations or shopping frenzy, if there is any excess, it's of delicious food, well wishes and love for family. The traditional celebration of "La Befana" for the epiphany, Christmas eve midnight mass and multi course meals with lots of special dishes are all wonderful, but it's the "fare gli auguri" that I appreciate most about Natale. 

Like so many concepts in Italian auguri which is translated as "best wishes" is a multilayered and complex concept and almost impossible to fully translate into English, and it has significant religious and moral dimension. And I promise if you spend time with Italians around the holidays,  you will experience it. My friend Valeria describes it much better than I possibly could. 

"Currently auguri is used for every good wish, from a birthday to a degree to a wedding. But I think that Christmas "auguri" are special because it is the end of the year and we all pause to take a look at the year passed and start thinking about the next one, so it is a time for reflection and balance. We usually are grateful for the good things we have and wish to improve the not so good ones, so auguri is a wish to improve and do better, but it is not referred to material wealth alone, it is in general a wish for improvement and happiness." 

Really, what could be better than that? But it has to be experienced. Short of going to Italy for the holiday, I encourage you to attend some of the Italian events in the Bay Area where you can enjoy a bit of this very Italian, true spirit of Christmas.

Mercato di Natale 
December 7 & 8 from 10 am - 6 pm at Fort Mason 
Germans aren't the only ones with Christmas markets! This Italian Christmas market takes place this Saturday and Sunday December 7 & 8 from 10 am - 6 pm at the Museo Italo-Americano at Fort Mason Center Building C. There will be artisanal Italian foods, handmade jewelry, accessories, craft items and more. I hope to see you there! 

Festa dei Dolci Italiani 
December 12th, 7 pm at Fort Mason tickets $35
This annual holiday event at the Museo Italo Americano is hosted by the Museo Auxiliary. Wine, prosecco, cheese and fabulous sweet and savory treats prepared by Auxiliary members will be served. RSVP to 415.673.2200 or email for an invitation. 

An Italian Holiday Dinner  
December 19th, 6:30 pm at Cavallo Point tickets $95
Learn to make Casunziei all'Ampezzana (red beet tortelli with brown butter and poppy seeds)
Tagliatelle al Cacao con Speck e Panna (cocoa tagliatelle with smoked ham and cream) and Lasagna alla Bolognese (classic bolognese lasagna)

I highly recommend Viola Buitoni's classes. I can't imagine a better Christmas present for yourself or someone you love. I finally got to take one and it was even better than I could have imagined. Viola is from a family famous in Italy and the world for both pasta (yes, that Buitoni) and Perugina chocolates. While the family no longer runs either of those companies, Viola's firsthand knowledge and her warm and encouraging manner will inspire you to tackle any Italian cooking project with confidence. Her classes virtually always sell out, so sign up for updates from her blog so you will know as soon as classes are announced.  Her pasta and polenta classes in January still have a few spaces at 18 Reasons (check the schedule for more details).