Christmas Meals in the South of Italy: Semantic Keys to Reading

Key words
southern Italy, Christmas, feasts, folk Christianity, religiosity, sacred meaning.
Oxana D. Fais-Leutskaia
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (499) 954-93-43
32a, Leninskii ave., 119334, Moscow, Russian Federation
PhD in History, Senior Researcher, Center for European Studies, N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Date of publication

The article is written in accordance with the plan of research of the N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences.


This article examines traditional Christmas meals in the regions of southern Italy. Based on field materials, the author analyzes hypotheses put forward by a number of researchers, according to which Italy is currently experiencing a crisis of religiosity in all of its regions, reflected in holiday meals, primarily Christmas ones. These are alleged to represent the apotheosis of profane gluttony as well as an assertion of parochial identity in the eyes of the population, its justification and sign. Study of the socio-alimentary features of these feasts in the context of the folk environment of southern Italy does not refute either the historical importance of the role of alimentary culture in the region, or increased gastronomic hedonism, or the importance of the festive table as a factor in maintaining local selfhood. Nevertheless, it does allow the author to challenge the notion of the devaluation of former religious beliefs and worldviews, as well as the hypotheses about the desacralization of the south of Italy and the secularization of traditional festive and ritual food. The study reveals the peculiarities of the local population’s understanding of the sacred meaning of the Christmas menu that reflects so-called “folk Christianity.” The examination of these alimentary practices allows us to uncover deep layers of belief, sometimes dating back to prehistoric times, and to outline the archaic principles of communication between people and the gods.


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For citation

Fais-Leutskaia O. D. Christmas Meals in the South of Italy: Semantic Keys to Reading. Traditional Culture. 2022. Vol. 23. No. 3. Pp. 150–160. In Russian.