Submitted by Charlene Pardo
La Festa di San Nicola is an Italian festival celebrated today on December 6 in honor of St Nicholas. In addition to being the historical origin of Santa Claus, Nicholas was also the bishop of Myra, Turkey in the 4th century and the patron of shepherds. When the town of Pollutri, Abruzzo experienced a famine, the shepherds asked Nicholas for help. He only had a handful of fava beans, but it was miraculously turned into enough to feed the whole village. To commemorate the miracle, the town still lights fires under enormous cauldrons of fava beans on December 6th and tonight everyone has fava beans for dinner.
Nicholas also secretly helped a poor man with three daughters. The father couldn’t provide sufficient dowries for his daughters to get married, so they would have eventually had to beg or “walk the streets”.
During the night, Nicholas slipped three bags of gold into the girls’ stockings which were drying by the fireplace. This act of kindness developed into our tradition of Saint Nick bringing gifts to children while they sleep and hiding them in their stockings. It’s also the source of pawnshops using three gold balls as the universal symbol of their establishments. Take a hint from St Nicholas this Christmas and do a good deed  without telling anyone about it.
Here are some other Italian Christmas traditions to incorporate into your celebrations this year:
Spumante or Prosecco- Bubbly ways to toast “Italian style” at holiday parties.
Panettone-sweet Christmas bread with nuts and bits of dried fruit.
Cenone- Feast of the Seven Fishes (Meatless Christmas Eve dinner).
Presepio- Nativity or Manger scenes first made popular by Francis of Assisi.
Buon Natale!- Wish somebody “Merry Christmas” in Italian!