The Philippines is known to have the longest Christmas in the world— starting the celebration as early as September. You’ll know that the holiday season is nearing when songs by Mariah Carey and Jose Mari Chan are played on the radio, nativity scenes (belen) are displayed everywhere, and the smell of bibingka and puto bumbong fill up the air outside churches.
But have you ever wondered if there are similar traditions in the center of the Church itself— the Vatican City? (Read: 3 Christmas Playlists on Spotify to Suit Your Holiday Mood)
In Chef David Geisser‘s new cookbook, The Vatican Christmas Cookbook, the swiss guard chef tells us how Christmas is spent at the Vatican and gives a few behind-the-scenes as to what the Pope’s Swiss Guards do during their holiday watch!
Vatican Christmas Staples
Just like us Filipinos, Christmas is a big deal to those living in the state. Decorations light up the streets, the smell of food wafts through the air, and Christmas markets in place make the streets look even more festive. (LOOK: These Local IG Stores Have the Cutest Christmas Items!)
One would smell roasting chestnuts and cioccolato caldo (hot chocolate) while walking along the town square, where lights are strewn across posts and buildings as far as the naked eye could see.
The Vatican’s Version of Bibingka
But what’s most interesting about Christmas at the Vatican is that they have a traditional pastry that’s popular every Christmas, just like our bibingka! The bread, called the panettone, is a sweet bread pastry that is made during the holidays— both Christmas and New Year— and usually paired with Prosecco, a kind of white wine. (WATCH: Disney UK Celebrates Filipino Families in Viral Christmas Ad)
In fact, everyone in Italy during the Christmas season has to have a slice of panettone— it’s kind of obligatory! During the holidays, you will surely see an astonishing amount of panettone in Rome that you can eat one on the spot and still have plenty to take home to your family.
So when you get the chance to visit Italy in the future—after the pandemic, of course—don’t forget to grab a slice of this delicious Italian Christmas treat!