Christmas with a Sicilian family: a survival kit


This post is dedicated to all the Sicilian expats who, like me, are going back to their homeland for Christmas. If you’re not from Sicily but for some reasons you’re spending Jesus Day with a Sicilian family, read carefully and repeat after me: “I can do this!”

Here are the top 5 tips to survive Christmas in Sicily without any serious brain or physical damage.

1. Get belly-ready

Sicilian dinners require some serious belly training, and I’m not talking about abs. You’ve got to find that extra room in your stomach you never thought existed. Learn how to stretch your belly from the eating contest masters and you’ll be able to get through a ten course meal and an over-bearing gran.

2.  Learn the fine art of juggling conversations at 120 decibels

As soon as people take their seats and the first starters arrive, the Christmas dining table will turn into a battlefield where everyone fights to the loudest word and the last bruschetta. One person will start shouting to the person sitting the farthest away at the table, and others will follow, until you’ll find that you’re part of 10 different conversations and nobody will let you finish one single sentence. Keep nodding and carry on.

3. Prepare your answers in advance

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been away one month or ten years, every time you come back you’ll have to answer the same questions before even thinking of starting a normal conversation.


What’s the weather like in London? Do you eat well in London? Have you lost weight? Have you gained weight? Is London REALLY expensive? Where do you live in London?… Is that close to where the queen lives??

Keep your anwers short and vague – ok, yes, perhaps, perhaps, yes, North London – and then ask what’s for dinner.

4. Avoid repeated questions

Gather as many people as possible in one place when answering the questions above, so you won’t have to repeat them ten times.

5. Avoid unwanted questions

Whether the question is about your wedding date or your plans forthe next ten years, there are many ways to drive unwanted attention away from you at the most convenient time. Here are some of my favourite techniques:

    • The “WOW, these lasagne are really great!” technique, which will stir the conversation to how great Italian cuisine is as compared to those barbarian foreign foods.
    • The shock effect – drop the “I’m pregnant” bomb and then say it was a joke before some elderly relatives die of heart attack. They’ll never remember what their question was.
    • The political digression – bring up anything the Prime Minister has done over the past week and it will trigger an endless stream of moaning and a review of the past decades of bad political management from all Parties. Everybody will have a view and will shout it out loud, leaving you free to go.
    • The field crasher – pay someone to crash your Christmas dinner at the right time, possibly naked. This is always a winner.

And now the cheesy bit: whatever your crazy family habits are, enjoy your time back home, eat like a pig and unleash the inner Sicilian in you. You’ll have the best time of your life!

Are you spending Christmas in Palermo? Here are the top 15 things to do in the city

17 thoughts on “Christmas with a Sicilian family: a survival kit

    1. Last Christmas my brother-in-law gave us so much food I gained 5 kilogrammes over the Christmas period. I am still on a diet and still trying to get rid of it so I am terrified for this year!!!! Apart from 3 pasta courses there were 5 fish courses – one was a whole swordfish – and then there were about 5 meat courses, but by then I wasn’t even looking at the food…. Nobody could even stand by that point, so lunch just continued on seamlessly into dinner without anybody being able to poinpoint exactly when one meal ended and the next began.

  1. Great post, it has reminded me of what I am missing this year.
    🙁 🙁
    I am in the UK this Christmas and Mrs Sensible is home alone in Northan Italy. We are trying to work out if it is possible to meet midair and go see the family in Sicily for the New Year Dinner.

    1. Thanks! Hope you manage to go and spend some quality food-time in Sicily. I’ll be posting loads of pictures on Instagram, have a look if you feel homesick…

          1. I need to start using Instagram too. There are too many “Internet things” for me to keep up with these days. it makes me feel old 🙁
            But I shall look out for your photos Oriana.
            Meanwhile Pecora Nera, if you want the full Sicilian Xmas experience I can set up a Skype connection to my mad outlaws for you to listen in…. and try to scream to your won family over the top of them.

  2. Haha! That sounds all too familiar.

    6. Also don’t forget to stack some bottles of wine, cola, etc. near your plate as a barrier against the few random incoming pre-chewed food fragments as a consequence of all that simultaneous eating and shouting.

    Oh and the dreaded TV: a persistent and unquestionable logic seems to exist there that in order to hear everyone and everything simultaneously, everything must always become louder. So at the beginning of a meal, the TV starts out at slightly above normal volume, then people start talking, then the TV’s volume gets set louder, then people start talking louder, then the TV’s volume gets set to very loud, people start shouting, and so on. Eventually (and thankfully), this chain reaction stabilizes at the point that the shouting has reached just slightly below the borderline of pain to everyone’s vocal chords.

    1. Oh gawd the telly too. I had forgotten about that particular horror. It’s not just the volume that makes it so painful, it’s the naff golden oldies they keep playing, along with women dancing badly in Santa costumes from a sex shop. (Or should I say sexy shop, since we’re in Italy).

  3. Sounds like an average Sunday round at my in-laws’ place! I’m doing my first Sicilian Christmas this year and am reassured to find that, as ever, the focus is on the really important things (i.e. the food). The best part is that we’re then going to the UK to do a late Christmas there as well. I hope the plane will still be able to take off, given how much extra weight the two of us will be carrying!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *