What makes Christmas so special? Traditions.
Every year, when Christmas comes, you already know it will all be the same as the year before: you will decorate the tree with the same old lights and ornaments, you will buy presents for family and friends and probably gather with them eating the same food and doing the same things you do every year.
This is what makes Christmas especially comforting: you already know what to expect and, most likely, it is all nice and happy. No bad things can happen at Christmas – at least in our thoughts.
Everyone has its own special Christmas traditions.
When I was a kid, my father used to take me with him in the woods to cut the Christmas tree. I still vividly remember the strong smell of pine trees and the boots that plunged deep into the snow. We stopped doing so because cutting trees in the wild had been forbidden but my mom and dad still buy a real tree instead of a plastic one, while everybody else here has a fake Christmas tree bought in a cheap store. And they still use the decorations we had when I was a kid.
In my family, we stopped exchanging presents a while ago when we realized that we were doing it just because it needed to be done and we were wasting way too much money on things we didn’t need. In lieu of presents, the Sunday before Christmas we all dress up and go to a fancy restaurant, one of those places you go for very special occasions, and that is our present for ourselves.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate at Christmas: on Christmas day and on the day after, we have the most traditional Italian Christmas you can imagine. We all gather at my parents’ house and have two days of food and drinks, and food and drinks, and then again, food and drinks. And we always eat the same things, every year. Well, actually each year we try at least one new dish but all the staples are there, on the menu.
I have to say that I love trying new things and I usually don’t like always eating the same thing, but Christmas is different. Knowing that all your favorite dishes will be on the table is comforting, as I said before, and makes you in a good mood. Moreover, most of these dishes are to be eaten at Christmas only, so this makes them truly special.
We have countless different dishes on Christmas day but one is especially dear to my heart and it’s the salame al cioccolato. My mother has been making it ever since I can remember and since she made it in big batches, in order to give it to friends as a present, my father and I would spend way too many evenings cracking hazelnuts – which is not exactly the nicest job in the world.
Well, it was a boring and tiresome job but the reward was great because salame al cioccolato is one of the most amazing desserts I know, as it combines the taste of chocolate, tea biscuits and toasted hazelnuts with an amazing texture both soft and crunchy. I am sure you want to try it so here’s the recipe my mother has been making for ages. You will love it, I have no doubts!
Salame al cioccolato
150 grams of plain dry biscuits (we use Oro Saiwa ones, a good substitute could be Graham Crackers or Rich Tea biscuits)
200 grams of soft butter
300 grams of toasted hazelnuts
50 grams of dark cocoa
3 egg yolks
200 grams of icing sugar
Crunch the hazelnuts and the biscuits into small chunks. Beat the eggs with sugar, add the butter and keep mixing until nice and creamy. Then add the cocoa and keep mixing. Once the cream is ready, add the hazelnuts and the biscuits. Use your hands to give it the shape you prefer and let it rest in the fridge for at least one night. Decorate as you prefer, adding some icing sugar or some candied oranges on top.
Please note that there is no picture of the actual sweet because my mother has not started making it yet. Sorry about that! 🙂