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3 After-Dinner Traditions to Bring Italy to Your Holiday Celebration

21 December 2023
by Michele Becker
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Here’s How to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, Italian-style

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: holiday season! All over the world, families and friends are coming together to celebrate one of the many holidays that take place during winter’s chill. While everyone has their own cherished customs that make their way into homes and hearts, few places boast more unique traditions than Italy.

Food traditions like the Feast of the Seven Fishes often take center stage, but there are so many other holiday rituals that delight Italian families after the meal is done. Want to bring a slice of Italy to your celebration this year? Try one of these favorite after-dinner activities.

 Digestivi

1. Drink for Digestion

For many Italians, there is no better way to end a holiday meal than with something that helps digest it all. Digestivi are after-dinner cocktails that usually consist of a bitter liqueur such as an amaro, limoncello, or grappa. The bitterness of the liquor helps encourage digestion after a big meal. Prefer a nonalcoholic aid? Try a shot of espresso! The bitterness of the coffee similarly helps settle the stomach and may prevent bloating with its anti-inflammatory properties. Just make sure you don’t add milk, as Italians believe that dairy after dinner will upset the stomach more than it will help it.

Italian after dinner games

2. Play Card Games

After the big Christmas dinner, the fun continues with cards! After-dinner card games are a beloved family tradition all over Italy—and the competition can get heated. Some favorites include Scopa, a game that involves “sweeping” (scopa means “broom”) the cards off the table to collect as many as possible, and Briscola, a card game where the goal is to score as many points as possible by playing specific high cards or ones that correspond to each round’s chosen high suit. Giada and Jade love playing Mercante in Fiera (“Merchant at the Fair”) at Aunt Raffy’s annual Christmas party. This De Laurentiis favorite shares similarities with bingo and includes choosing a merchant and placing bids of varying amounts. As Giada remembers, her grandfather used to make the bid quite high when she was a kid!

 

Outdoor Christmas lights in Italy


3. Get Outside

La passeggiata, an after-dinner walk, is a year-round Italian favorite. It’s the perfect way to walk off a large meal and enjoy each other’s company in the fresh air. Despite the chilly weather in December, families will bundle up and stroll through their neighborhood, admiring the plethora of holiday lights and decorations. In northern Italy, where the climate calls for snow, midnight skiing to welcome Christmas day takes the place of a walk. Families will hit the slopes after the Feast of the Seven Fishes, sometimes carrying torches to light their way and celebrate the coming of Christmas.

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