Panettone: An Italian Christmas Tradition


Si vive per mangiare, non si mangia per vivere!  (Live to eat, don’t eat to live!)

I have very fond memories of my childhood spent in Italy.  Some of the ones I hold closest to my heart are those spent around meals, during which my uncle would repeat this well-known Italian mantra as he sat my cousins and me down for daily feasts around the dinner table.  Even at a young age, I understood that food was a big part of our family’s life – gathering in the kitchen to help with food preparation, sitting down all together to enjoy convivial, three-, sometimes four-course meals together, not rushing through conversations – all contributed to the beauty and tradition of food.

Food is a big huge part of life in Italy, and during the holidays this could not be truer.  The traditions surrounding food are many, and in my eyes – perhaps those still of a little girl growing up in Italy – one of the most glorious is that of eating panettone on Christmas morning (and at midday, as an afternoon snack, pre-dinner, dessert…you get the idea!).


Panettone, known in America as the Italian Raisin Cake, is a sweet Italian Christmas cake that dates back to the 15th century.  Light and fluffy, studded with raisins and candied oranges, and topped with a light coating of confectioner’s sugar, panettone is an anticipated Christmas tradition to many family tables throughout Italy.  When I was a little girl, the arrival of the panettone not only symbolized total and complete yumminess, but also family togetherness, love, and happiness.  For many families like mine, the delight of gathering around a bountiful, beautifully laid table, topped with the shiny panettone box brought an extra special spark to the holidays.

I am so happy that we can easily find panettone in Knoxville stores.  I love the idea of sharing this delicious tradition with my children and watching them bite into a sweet slice of panettone on Christmas morning.  If you’re feeling brave and want to make your own panettone (it’s a fairly laborious process), here’s a great Italian panettone recipe.  Or, if you’re like me and rather spend your time gobbling it up, make your way to Trader Joe’s or Costco (or other local stores) and pick one up!

What are your family’s food traditions?  We’d love to hear about them!

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In March 2011 my life changed in the most dramatic and wonderful way possible: I became a mom to my vivacious, inquisitive, sweet, fun-loving, exuberant little man. A week after my son’s birth, my husband received a job offer we could not refuse from the University of Tennessee. And so, in July 2011, we said goodbye to the life we’d created in the coastal paradise of Santa Barbara, California, and began carving out a new bit of paradise for ourselves in Knoxville. In March 2013, just over two years after the birth of our son, we welcomed our beautiful and equally amazing daughter. Together with my loving and supportive husband, my children have taught me to slow down and enjoy the moments life gives us. It is with them and thanks to them, that I feel truly happy and at peace.


  1. Yeah, really. Are we supposed to eat this now or save it for Christmas? It’s really hard to wait!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart with us, Francesca!! (or is it a piece of your stomach?)

    • Oh, sweet Jenny! I know it’s hard…I’ve been staring at our panettone for weeks now and am tempted to eat to every night:-) If you can’t wait go ahead and enjoy it…Santa just might bring you another one:-)


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